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Senior College Football Columnist

Final missing piece to CFP is hardest: the selection committee

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PASADENA, Calif. -- Bob Bowlsby's face lit up this week describing a past round at Augusta National, home of the Masters. Yes, you're jealous. Such are the spoils of a major-conference (Big 12), highly decorated commissioner.

He was particularly reminiscent of a twisting, winding putt on No. 16. Bowlsby didn't make it that day but he didn't knock it off the green, either. Even commissioners take advice from caddies.

"I'm proud of myself," he said. "At 61, I can learn something."

The conversation then turned to a really difficult task. The College Football Playoff's selection committee.

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"That," Bowlsby countered during the annual BCS meetings, "is not easy."

The selection committee has become, in fact, the most difficult piece of staging the new CFP. So hard that it is the last piece. The commissioners formally announced the worst-kept secret in college football on Wednesday -- that the Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls were joining the rotation and Dallas was hosting the first championship game in 2015.

They have until fall -- their self-imposed deadline -- to decide the who, what and where of how to select those teams. Long before, they may want to admit the task of assembling a righteous group of peerless adults who have absolutely nothing to hide is almost impossible.

"I'd have retired a long time ago if I didn't think it was possible," Bowlsby said.

Start with this impediment: There were at least two members of the BCS ADs Advisory Group here this week who were opposed to the actual idea of a selection committee, according to a source. They favored something closer to the current ranking system.

While the advisory group isn't the all-powerful commissioners, the stance suggests there isn't 100 percent approval of an idea that isn't 100 percent foolproof. Here's why ...

Who's on the committee? Seventeen months before that first playoff season kicks off in 2014, no one knows. Originally, there was an idea floated of one representative per FBS conference. That would account for 10 members. As of now, there are supposed to be 15-20 total. Should there be ADs? Retired coaches, administrators?

BCS/CFP executive director Bill Hancock has been fielding calls from all over. As of Wednesday the idea of a retired media member being in the group was still on the table.

And everyone -- everyone -- has a perceived bias. That's why the man most qualified to be on the committee, can't. Roy Kramer, the man who invented the BCS, is most well known as a former SEC commissioner.

The transparency conundrum: Too little and we're talking the NCAA basketball committee. Those nine fine fellas come out of their rabbit hole each March to announce the bracket. We accept that. It's American sports tradition.

To coin a phrase, that would be death to the CFP. There can be no rabbit hole for the selection committee to hide in. The process needs more eyes on it, not fewer. Hancock suggested Wednesday there would be periodic updates by the committee on team rankings.

We, the media, would prefer not only those rankings but how the individual committee members voted. But reveal too much, and those rankings will be incessantly compared with the AP and coaches' polls, opening the committee up to further criticism. Why don't you have the same four teams as AP? or Why DO you have the same four teams as the coaches?

And the committee had better be absolutely ready to explain something like this scenario from 2012: Oregon was No. 4 in the BCS standings but Pac-12 champ Stanford (which beat the Ducks in Eugene) was No. 6. If it was 2014, the Ducks could have played for a national championship. The Pac-12 champion couldn't.

The confidence factor: Despite the conscious effort to eliminate any sort of link to the BCS, the CFP had a meltdown on Wednesday, the first full day of its existence.

A hacker got into the official website collegefootballplayoff.com and posted 50,000 votes in a pick-the-logo contest. Normally, you wouldn't care. On Wednesday you had to laugh. The CFP proudly proclaimed it "caught a cheater."

This from a system that once had a team playing for a national championship that didn't so much as win its division after 26-point loss in its final regular-season game. Yup. Nebraska, 2001.

Ah, the fun and frolic that lies ahead.

The Deadspin factor: This isn't going to be like membership in the local women's auxiliary. Selection committee members better be ready for a scrutiny endoscope: Freedom of Information Act requests from the public and media. Criminal background checks. Divorce records. DUIs. Anything. Everything.

One thing about the BCS computers: They don't have tax returns that can be accessed.

"Priority 1 is impeccable integrity," Bowlsby said.

And forget about eating out with your wife, buddies, anyone. Really. All it takes is some knucklehead with a camera phone to snap you with a couple of bottles of wine at your table. The pic gets on Deadspin and suddenly the committee chairman has some explaining to do.

"I think this will be the most prestigious committee in college sports," Hancock said.

And easily the most Googled, scrutinized, exposed and discussed.

Without a caddie in sight to line 'em up.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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