Bill Hancock

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Bill Hancock: Expanded College Football Playoff not a talking point

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With another year of the College Football Playoff teams being selected with a bit of dramatic flair and questions about what exactly the qualifications are for being selected, the idea of expanding the playoff field beyond four teams continues to be mentioned by media and fans alike who are on the pro-playoff expansion side of the conversation. Unfortunately for them, College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock continues to say expansion has not been discussed.

There’s been no talk about a format change in the meetings of the commissioners and the presidents who manage the CFP,” Hancock said Sunday, according to Heather Dinich of ESPN.

Hancock went on to say the system is perfectly fine and suggested the format is drumming up exactly the kind of interest it was intended to when originally formed.

“This was the kind of debate we wanted when we created the playoff,” Hancock said. “We wanted diverse opinions, we wanted people who wouldn’t hesitate to state their feelings, and man, we got it.”

Oh boy, did they.

As will typically be the case, the most conversation will come around who gets the fourth spot in the four-team playoff field. The fun began right out of the gates when Ohio State was selected with the fourth seed ahead of both Big 12 co-champions, Baylor and TCU, in 2014. While Ohio State, who went on to win the national championship, had a case to be included ahead of Baylor and TCU, the outcome helped ignite the Big 12’s decision to bring back its conference championship game, which returned last year for the first time since the conference went from 12 members to 10.

Things went pretty smoothly in 2015 with a pretty clean path to getting to four teams without much debate, but the 2016 season marked the first time a non-division winner was invited to the playoff with Ohio State getting the third seed ahead of one-loss Pac-12 champion Washington. The biggest question here was either whether Ohio State, who lost to Big Ten champion Penn State (who lost two games), should have even been considered without a division championship or whether Penn State deserved a shot at the playoff over Washington. Whatever the case, Penn State had two losses so the final four decision seemed to be the right one in the end.

And of course, last year saw Alabama as a one-loss non-division winner get into the playoff as the fourth seed while Ohio State sat at home as the Big Ten champion, although with two losses. This season marks the third straight year the Big 12 champion has been left out of the playoff mix. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart also stumped hard for consideration to be in the playoff after losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia may be one of the four best team in the country, but a second loss (even to Alabama in the SEC title game) proved to be too much of an anchor to sink Georgia’s playoff hopes.

The four-team playoff field is here to say, but at some point, it would seem likely the format will eventually change, whether it occurs after the current contract expires or before if enough conference commissioners and presidents start weighing in with a different tune. That has yet to happen, which is why Hancock continues to recite the same answers he’s been doing regarding expansion since the format took over for the BCS.

But always remember, Hancock is also the same one who said for years the BCS was not going to change in favor of a playoff system. Until the time comes when the powers that be tell Hancock to start sending a different message, he’ll continue to say this on a regular basis.

College Football Playoff again chips in with stipends to send parents to playoffs

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Give the College Football Playoff credit where credit is due. When the system sends some teams great distances for a semifinal game and, potentially, a championship game the following week, the travel expenses can add up quickly for families of the players. The College Football Playoff will once again step in to help out with some of those expenses.

On Monday, the College Football Playoff announced it will distribute $2,500 stipends to each player playing in this year’s playoff to be used to help family members attend the games. The stipend is to be used for travel, hotel and meals to either the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl.

“We are delighted to continue this program for the participants of the College Football Playoff,” Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, said in a released statement. “It is a terrific benefit for our student-athletes and one the university presidents and conference commissioners who manage the playoff are proud to support.”

This continues an annual act of kindness for the playoff to families of players involved in the playoff. Last year, the College Football Playoff distributed $1.5 million between the four playoff participants — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Washington — to attend the Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl, and national championship game.

Clemson will meet Alabama in the Sugar Bowl this year in one semifinal game. Oklahoma and Georgia will meet in the Rose Bowl in the other semifinal game. The national championship game will be played in Atlanta this season.

Report: CFB Playoff clause could lead to extension for Kirby Hocutt

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Texas Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt is taking over as the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee this year. Although his term on the selection committee is scheduled to expire at the end of the 2016 season, a clause in the selection committee protocol could lead to a one-year extension for Hocutt, according to a report from Heather Dinich of ESPN.com.

“Members will not be eligible for re-appointment, but a member’s term may be extended one year if the member would serve as chair in what otherwise would be his/her final year,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN.com. This being Hocutt’s final year on his term qualifies Hocutt for the one-year extension, which would allow him to fill that role again in 2017. Selection committee members typically serve three-year contracts, which means the bulk of the selection committee is entering their final year on their respective contracts, but Hocutt was not a founding selection committee member. This will be just his second season on the committee.

Hocutt fills the vacancy on the committee left by West Virginia’s Oliver Luck and succeeds Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, who served as the chair of the selection committee for the first two seasons of the College Football Playoff. In addition to being the top head of the selection committee, the chair must also be the public face of the committee. Long had appeared on the weekly rankings show aired by ESPN to answer questions about the most recent rankings and attempt to shed some light on the logic behind the rankings as discussed by the selection committee. It was a job that came with plenty of criticism, although this was not always the direct fault of Long the past two years. He was just there to take the brunt of the attacks from critics, as any chairperson might.

There is no deadline for the College Football Playoff and selection committee to decide the fate of Hocutt’s term, although Hancock notes the discussion will be held later this year. There is no real rush to make a final judgement either. This is a decision that could even linger into the 2017 calendar year, although it would be expected to be cemented in place before the start of the 2017 college football season and could come much earlier than that. The future of other selection committee members with expiring contracts — Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez, Bobby Johnson and Condoleezza Rice — remains unknown at this time as well.

Again, there is plenty of time to piece together the 2017 College Football Playoff selection committee, so don’t expect much clarity on the situation in the near future.

Jeff Long steps down as CFB Playoff selection committee chairman

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After wrapping up his second season as chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, Jeff Long is stepping down. Long is expected to remain on the selection committee, and has two years remaining on his term.

According to multiple reports on Tuesday, including one from George Schroeder of USA Today, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock confirmed the news regarding the only chairman of the selection committee in the first two seasons under the new playoff structure.

“Jeff was a terrific chairman,” Hancock said. “He was the perfect choice to be the first chairman. He was a very effective leader inside the committee room and also an honest communicator outside it.”

Long was tasked with being the voice of the selection committee, which included making weekly appearances on the weekly rankings show aired by ESPN once the selection committee got to work releasing its weekly rankings. At times Long offered conflicting reasoning and logic behind the committee’s fresh rankings, but it was a difficult job for a brand new system that had to be ironed out along the way. Hancock noted the idea of the chairman was originally to only have someone hold the position for one or two years, so the development of the Arkansas Athletics Director no longer occupying the role is not surprising, and should not be seen as a startling development.

A new chairperson is expected to be named from the current selection committee in the next month.

Bill Hancock says CFB Playoff locked in for New Years Eve despite massive failure on TV

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College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said he wanted to wait until after the TV ratings for the entire New Years Six were revealed before commenting on the future of the College Football Playoff schedule. Those numbers came in, and there was no way to twist it as a positive considering the significant drop-off from the previous installment. Regardless, Hancock is sticking to the company line by saying the College Football Playoff will not budge from New Years Eve scheduling in future years.

“The contract is in place for 12 years,” Hancock said in an interview with FOX Sports on Monday. “We have not talked at all about making any changes.”

This has been the same line iterated from Hancock when it comes to expansion of the playoff field and with the scheduling of the semifinal games since the dawn of the College Football Playoff. His line will not change until it is forced to change. Odds are ESPN will make a serious push to get that changed.

A reported total of 18,552,000 people watched the Cotton Bowl semifinal between Alabama and Michigan State. An estimated 15,640,000 tuned in for the Orange Bowl semifinal between Clemson and Oklahoma. For a regular college football game, those would be great numbers, but these were the two biggest college football games of the year and each semifinal game took a significant nosedive from the average 28 million fans that tuned in for the semifinal games a year ago. ESPN was right to be concerned about the playoff playing game son New Years Eve, and understandably so. ESPN is paying mega bucks to broadcast the College Football Playoff, and the CFB Playoff thumbed their noses at ESPN and refused to move the biggest games of the year to a more logical time, whether on January 1 or on January 2.

What should be alarming is the College Football Playoff may be prepared to wait three more years before addressing any possible change to the schedule, which will land semifinal games on New Years Eve again in the 2016 season.

“It may turn out by the time we get to Year 5, and we’ve had competitive games, that we say, ‘You know what, it’s not working,'” said Hancock. “But it’s important not to jump to conclusions after one year of admittedly disappointing ratings.”

Year five?! I am not here to defend ESPN, a competing outlet of course, but they are paying far too much to have the idiots running the College Football Playoff not to adhere to their concerns and best wishes to maximize the return of investment on the broadcasting of the most important games of the college football season. The College Football Playoff folks need to realize playing semifinal games on New Years Eve did not score lowly because of the blowouts that unfolded, but because playing games on New Years Eve is a ridiculous strategy that everybody seems to understand except the people in charge of actually scheduling the games.