Since its 1998 inception, the college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) has become the most hated postseason event in the country – even drawing a 2011 Department of Justice investigation for possible violation of antitrust laws. Relying on a mix of human polls and stat-crunching computers to determine the annual title-game matchup, the series also uses a sequence of convoluted contingencies that decide which top teams get to compete in high-stakes bowl games, an opaque process that inevitably outrages fans and even caused President Obama, in 2008, to argue for a change to the system. Now, change we can believe in has arrived. In 2014, college football is taking a page from the NCAA March Madness playbook and debuting its first-ever postseason bracket: the College Football Playoff.
The playoff will feature the four highest-ranked teams in the country, as selected and seeded by a 13-person selection committee (which includes Condoleezza Rice), in New Year's Day semifinal matches and a title game to follow. Ahead of the transition, we caught up with Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, who will be in charge of the new playoffs. "Time's change," Hancock told us. "The fans want a bracket."
We asked Hancock to explain why the playoffs were the right decision and what college football fans can expect next season. Here are his responses.
How will the tournament teams be chosen?
Next fall, the committee will begin meeting about four times in person, before selection Sunday. The first meeting will be in mid-October. And they will be evaluating teams, issuing interim rankings after every meeting. And then, of course, the big meeting will be on Selection Sunday, the weekend of the conference championship games. As for the polls and rankings, I expect all of those to continue, and there's certainly some benefit to the regular season by having those. But obviously there will not be any single metric that will inform the committee's decision. Instead, each of the members can use whatever metrics they choose individually to help them come up with their own feelings about the teams, and then they'll come together and combine all their individual feelings and produce their rankings. . . .
Every conference was invited to nominate people and that created a pool of a little over 100 people, and then the management committee – that's the 10 conference commissioners and the Notre Dame DA (Director of Athletics) – winnowed that number down and created classifications. They decided they wanted people with experience as coaches, players, administrators, journalists, and then they wanted sitting athletic directors. It was a matter of the group, by consensus, coming up with the people they wanted to represent each of the classifications.
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