The College Football Playoff Selection Committee met for training Wednesday. The immediate question that needs to be asked: Training for what?
With the 2020 college football season potentially cut in two -- at least for now -- this week has provided a brutal reminder there is only one trophy.
That's the CFP's Gordian Knot at the moment: Who gets to play for the national championship with 77 FBS teams playing in the fall and as many as 53 potentially playing in the spring?
"I think it's OK to ask the logical question whether [a champion crowned in either semester] is an actual champion," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
That sort of discussion is beginning to bubble up. If all 130 FBS teams are not competing at once for a championship, is it really a championship?
One person close to the CFP suggested a fall champion vs. spring champion game is probably out of the question. That would require the game to be played in the spring, three or four months after the fall winner had completed its portion of the season. Awarding a trophy for each "semester" of football would be "fair," according to that same source.
That would essentially be a split national championship, something the CFP has eliminated and college football fans have not actually seen since 2003 when USC finished No. 1 in the AP Top 25 and LSU won the BCS Championship Game.
The essential challenge for the CFP management committee (FBS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick) is deciding to stage a playoff for one set of conferences at the exclusion of the other.
"If they decide at some point to push back in the spring, that would make it exciting to have a CFP. I still think we can do that," said Ohio State coach Ryan Day, whose Big Ten is aiming to play in spring 2021.
The CFP Selection Committee started Wednesday a two-day virtual meeting that focused on acquainting the rookies on the selection committee. (Wyoming AD Tom Burman, Colorado AD Rick George and former Penn State player John Urschel).
The 13-member committee is usually charged with judging the worth of the 130 FBS teams, but those have been cleaved not only by years but by philosophies.
The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mountain West and MAC (plus three individual programs) -- 53 total teams at this time -- hope to give it a go in the spring. The other 77 FBS teams are either planning on playing in the fall or leaning that way.
If held individually in either semester, that makes it more likely a four-team CFP bracket would be heavily weighted with one conference. Only oce in the six-year history of the CFP have two teams from one conference made the playoff (2017, Alabama and Georgia).
"It's too soon to say," said CFP executive director Bill Hancock. "We will await direction from the management committee and stay flexible."
In May, sources discussed with CBS Sports the legitimacy of a playoff without all FBS teams participating.
"It's going to be a while into the season before it's all resolved," said Bowlsby, a member of that management committee.
If there is a championship, Bowlsby made his case for holding it in the fall: "They're talking about playing in the spring. That doesn't mean necessarily that there's going to be football played in the spring. You remember what March, April and May was like this year and the virus was heavy upon us. That's why I wasn't a real fan of preemptively moving to the spring."
Either way, the selection committee will have limited data points to consider. Fewer, mostly conference games.
If you want to dig down further, seven of the 13 committee members currently have jobs at FBS schools. The breakdown of those seven schools: four will play in the fall (Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Arkansas) and three will go in the spring (Iowa, Colorado, Wyoming).
"We put 13 people in the room and ask them to do a very difficult job," Bowlsby said. "I think, actually, their task is the same as it has always been. They just don't have as many tools available to them."