Selection committee still a giant question mark for College Football Playoff

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Coming out of playoff meetings this week, we now know what college football’s new postseason will be called — College Football Playoff, as it turns out — and where the major games will take place. That’s all well and good, but the biggest factor for CFP’s success over its 12-year agreement remains unclear:

Who is going to select the four teams to participate? And how?

CFP’s executive director, Bill Hancock, didn’t have much in the way of answers on Thursday. When asked how much time BCS commissioners spent discussing the selection committee this week, Hancock said “probably two or three hours.” As perspective, Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel remarks “This after spending nearly 20 hours in meeting rooms.”

Mandel goes on to write:

They don’t know what the size of the committee will be. The latest reported number was “14 to 20,” but that’s far from a guarantee. “I think there’s honest disagreement in the room,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said of the group’s talks.

They don’t know whether the committee members will be current administrators, ex-coaches and athletic directors, former media members or some combination of the above. They don’t know whether the group will be divided geographically, by conference affiliation or something else. They don’t know which sets of data the members will utilize, and they don’t know whether the committee will issue an official poll late in the season, a la the BCS standings.

Ten months into the playoff deal, it would appear that the same questions asked about the selection committee on Day 1 are still being asked today. “We have time on our side,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive has insisted. Be that as it may — the playoff doesn’t begin until after the 2014 season, giving decision-makers another year to figure out specifics — this isn’t exactly a textbook definition of progress on CFP’s most important, and undoubtedly controversial, area. Naming the postseason “College Football Playoff” may allow for future changes, but it means nothing if no one can decide who plays in it. And people won’t care which city hosts the championship game or which teams have “home field advantage” if they don’t understand how the four teams were selected.

Make no mistake: this is an enormously difficult task that demands time and attention to detail. As Mandel notes, there’s really no precedence for how to put together a selection committee outside of the one used to determine college basketball’s tournament field. Of course, the difference between choosing almost 40 at-large spots and four teams is beyond noticed. Still, a selection committee seems like the best option. If subjectivity in selecting teams is largely unavoidable, at least make it transparent. That was among the biggest, if not the biggest, gripe about the BCS.

Consequently, anyone serving on CFP’s selection committee is a brave soul who will no doubt be subject to an intense amount of criticism. Next to NCAA president, being a member of CFP’s selection committee might be the most thankless public job in college athletics. Some people in the game, like Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, have already admitted they want no part of it. At least the BCS didn’t have feelings, and if it did, we have bigger problems than who makes up a playoff field.

How the committee comes up with the four teams is equally important, yet just as unclear at the moment. Word out of Pasadena this week is that the committee would release its own poll a handful of times through the season and then make its decision following the end of the season. Would the top four teams in the final CFP poll be the four teams selected for the playoff? That seems like a logical conclusion, otherwise the rankings would seem arbitrary and pointless.

There’s a lot to figure out over the next year or so when it comes to a selection committee. Here’s hoping it goes better than the first 10 months.

Former Michigan WR Drake Harris announces transfer to Western Michigan

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Michigan wideout Drake Harris announced  in November he’s leaving Ann Arbor for his final season of college football. On Saturday, we learned Harris is heading west. But not that far west.

Harris revealed in an Instagram post he will enroll at Western Michigan as a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately for the Broncos. “I’m happy to announce that I will be playing my last year of eligibility at Western Michigan University, while pursuing a masters degree. Excited to get working with Coach Lester and the rest of the coaching staff for a great year next season. Go Broncos,” he wrote.

Harris was one of the prized members of Brady Hoke‘s final recruiting class, but never found his footing as a Wolverine. In 25 career games, Harris caught nine passes for 60 yards.

He’ll join a receiving corps that returns intact but could use help. Western Michigan returns all eight wide receivers who caught a pass in 2017, but none of them snagged more than 30 receptions. WMU ranked 111th in completions and 116th in passing en route to a 6-6 finish in Tim Lester‘s first season as head coach.

Harris will face Syracuse in his first game as a Bronco — Aug. 31 in Kalamazoo — before returning to a familiar place for Game No. 2. Western Michigan visits the Big House on Sept. 8.

Jimbo Fisher vows to change culture at Texas A&M

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If there was one thing that really seemed to put Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat during his time at Texas A&M, it was the Aggies seemingly annual collapse in the second half of the season and inability to finish games they had the potential to win. That explains some of the reason why the school ponied up to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State in a $75 million hire late last year.

While most of the outside focus on Fisher’s move to College Station has been centered on that humongous contract, there’s little question that hiring a national title-winning coach was a coup for the team. That subject was brought up again on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show Friday evening and ESPN college football analyst Booger McFarland relayed a rather interesting conversation he had with the coach earlier this year in which Fisher said something you typically don’t hear made public. You can head to the 8:18 mark (or there abouts) for the interview.

“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta. I told Jimbo point-blank — the same thing I told you guys about Texas A&M the last several years — A&M is a soft program,” McFarland said. “Jimbo looked me in the eye and was like, ‘You know what, you’re damn right. We are soft, but I’m going to change that.’”

Something says that Fisher and the Aggies strength coaches are going to use the comments as a bit of a challenge in the weight room and during spring practice over the coming months as they lay the groundwork for the 2018 season. Even the most ardent maroon and white supporters would probably agree with the sentiment that the team went a little soft toward the end of Sumlin’s tenure but it’s not everyday you see a coach call out his new program quite like that.

Maybe it’s something in the water down there in College Station though, judging by some other comments by the school’s athletic director, but one thing is for certain — things are going to be very different at Texas A&M going forward.

Scott Frost wants Nebraska football roster to grow to 150 players or more in 2018

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In the days before you were limited to 85 scholarship players, it was not totally uncommon to see teams stock their rosters full of players and wind up in the triple-digits with close to 200 players on a team. Even after the NCAA mandated a limit of 85 scholarships, roster sizes were still not that much smaller when you factored in walk-ons and others on a squad.

It appears Scott Frost wants to get back to those sort of days in Lincoln and is apparently pushing the school to help him expand the Cornhuskers roster right into the 150 range.

“I’d like to accommodate (Frost’s) desire” to expand the roster, athletic director Bill Moos said this week in an interview with Rivals’ HuskerOnline. “But we do have that issue with Title IX” along with locker room facilities challenges, organized practice schedules, and other daily management nuts and bolts to sort through.

“Nebraska has been known for having a lot of players on the team…a lot of walk-ons. I’d like to get back to that,” Frost had said on Signing Day earlier in the month. “The best thing Coach (Tom) Osborne did was have everybody practice… and part of that is what led to the development of players and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster and get on the field and help the team. I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster.”

HuskerOnline details some of the compliance and budgetary challenges that going to 150 would entail but it certainly sounds like the school is making the effort to beef the numbers up. The Cornhuskers are well known in college football history for their walk-on program and roughly 10-15 walk-ons per class would apparently help them land right around Frost’s ideal roster size after factoring in the 85 full-scholarship players he would recruit.

Interestingly, going to 150 would allow the program to pass Michigan for the Big Ten’s biggest roster. The Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh are reportedly sitting at around 135 players after the 2017 season while most of the other conference’s schools are mostly around the 120 mark with a few exceptions. Title IX is not surprisingly the biggest obstacle for teams but it seems like some can manage things with no issue.

Frost was hired this offseason to help take Nebraska back to their perch atop college football and it seems like he is certainly attempting to do that in more ways than one when it comes to Big Red.

Purdue hires Utah State’s Mark Tommerdahl as special teams and tight ends coach

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Jeff Brohm is bringing in longtime coaching veteran Mark Tommerdahl to fill out his staff and serve as Purdue’s special teams and tight ends coach.

The Boilermakers announced the move on Saturday afternoon as Tommerdahl heads to West Lafayette after spending just a season at Utah State where he also coached running backs and ran the Aggies’ special teams. While his stay in Logan was brief, Tommerdahl has been all over the country in 34 years as a coach and is highly regarded for his work in the kicking game.

Tommerdahl has plenty of prior Power Five coaching experience and spent four seasons with Sonny Dykes at Cal where he coached three different position groups and served as assistant head coach. Prior to that he also had stops at Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU and several other schools.

The move to bring in Tommerdahl fills the spot on the Boilermakers’ staff that was left when former Houston coach Tony Levine left after one season with the school to pursue opportunities outside of the coaching profession. Brohm’s 10th assistant Kevin Wolthausen was also given special teams responsibilities when he was elevated to a full-time role so it’s possible the team is really beefing up their emphasis on the third phases of the game with the two new coaches splitting duties when it comes to special teams.

Either way, after a surprising 2017 season that ended with a bowl game victory it’s pretty clear that Brohm is not just sitting back when it comes to his coaching staff and is bringing in some veteran names to help the team take the next step in 2018.