When the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings debut tonight at 7:30PM ET a meticulously selected 12-person committee will inform us who's #1. They'll also tell us who's #2 to #25. This weekly process will continue until December 7. Yet, I can't help but think, why does it matter so much?
Why do we need to know who's the best? Is it an American thing? A competitive thing? A financial thing? The answer, much like the committee's hand-crafted selection process, is complex. Whatever the reasons behind judging and ranking winners and losers, our demand for a proper champion is firmly cemented in our culture. We like our winners to be clear-cut, in black and white, and most certainly, without controversy.
Whatever ultimately motivated the powers that be to usher in college football's first playoff, they boldly declared -- champions matter. Even in an increasing dysfunctional sports landscape that includes an alarming barrage of arrests, allegations, abuses and asinine behavior, winning seemingly beats all transgressions.
We've read reports on....
- Local police and school officials who protect and coddle student-athletes
- A pristine coach's reputation carefully maintained and defended by his university amidst scandals
- Boosters buying players (While this has been going on as long as the game itself, the past punishable findings at The University of Miami and the alleged pay-for-play scheme for ex-college football star Cam Newton continue to shine a negative light on collegiate athletics)
- The game's biggest superstars and scholarship athletes routinely seek under the table revenues by simply signing their name, over and over
- Winning isn't everything, but it sure does pay well (A $6 billion dollar TV deal for the playoff, millions more in coaches' contract incentives and an exclusive TV network for the sports' winningest conference, the SEC)
But none of the above mentioned appears to be the sport's most pressing issue.
Part of the criticism surrounding the former BCS was the method in which the top teams were selected. The most ardent critique of the old system? Why should a computer determine the best teams? That's a fair question to ask in a process meant to enact just that -- fairness. So, the officials that created the new college football playoff, concluded this time around, the nation's top teams would solely be decided by a group of human beings.
The playoff's Executive Director, Bill Hancock, understands how important his task is in overseeing the committee. He told me, "we are managing a public trust" and thinks they have an exceptional group of professionals who love college football. He calls the playoff "the public's event" and thinks of the committee as "a remarkably diverse All-Star team with different perspectives."
You can read more about the specific inner workings of the new system on the official College Football Playoff site.
Hancock also assured me the "best teams" will be selected. When I asked him if any off-the-field concerns would impact the committee's decision making process, he said, "No." My response is "Why not?" If the selection process of committee members was built around fairness, integrity and character, why can't those same qualities work when selecting the four best teams to represent the "best" of college football in an end of the year playoff? Will anyone take a stand for something other than winning... and winning at all costs?
The defending national champion and current undefeated Florida State University Seminoles are widely accepted as one of the country's top teams. And most of us are also aware of their well-documented, dramatic, off-the field issues. The university is currently under a federal Title IX investigation. With all that's swirling around the school and the football team, Seminoles Head Coach Jimbo Fisher remained defiant and defensive, as he assaulted the media a little over a week ago at his weekly press conference for its inaccurate reporting of "the facts."
The fact is -- FSU starts a Heisman trophy-winning QB, who, in the past couple of years...
- Fired BB guns at individuals and properties without suspension.
- Faced a rape allegation, but was never officially charged.
- Faces an upcoming student conduct code hearing for the alleged rape incident.
- Stole some crab legs.
- Signed thousands of authenticated autographs in which he's being investigated for possibly taking money for those signatures.
- Stood up on a tabletop in front of his fellow students on campus and yelled, "F*** her right in the p***y!"
- Characterized by his head coach as a "mature man" at the previously mentioned press conference just a couple of weeks ago and shortly after the "tabletop" incident.
And now, late word comes, via the Tallahassee Police Department's Facebook page, Karlos Williams, Florida State's leading rusher, is under investigation for an alleged domestic battery. According to Deadspin, this announcement comes after the mother of his two children posted a message along with photos on her Facebook page.
What if the committee said to FSU... at least for this one week, "No you won't be our top team, or even our bottom team. We are going to leave you out of the rankings all together." No matter how many indisputable wins, stats and metrics you throw at us to determine the nation's elite teams, it still comes down to a subjective analysis from 12 individuals. We are not computers. We are people -- We are human beings. I am a human being who stands for something other than simply who's #1.
If the game of polo is the "King of Sports," then college football is the King of College Sports. No amateur sport in this country comes close to college football's popularity, attention and revenue. And, right now, at this moment in time, whether they realize or not -- Jeff Long, Pat Haden, Barry Alvarez, Dan Radakovich, Oliver Luck, Tom Osbourne, Tyrone Willingham, Mike Tranghese, Tom Jernstedt, Mike Gould, Condoleeza Rice and Steve Wieberg, all led by Bill Hancock, comprise the most powerful group in all of collegiate sports. The question is, come October 28, will they act like it?
Steve Matoren is a rabid college football fan whose team will sadly not be in the playoff this season.