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Gazzolo Column: Politics creep into college playoff system

Last Modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 9:20 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

I have no problem with women serving on a college football committee.

Over the years Condoleezza Rice has more than proven herself capable of learning on the job and making tough decisions.

If Howie Mandel is allowed to tell America who does and doesn’t have talent, Rice is more than qualified to judge college football’s beauty contest.

And that is what I have a problem with.

Rice’s name has been attached to the group of people who will be deciding which four teams will make the college football playoffs starting next year.

To quote Jim Mora Sr. — “PLAYOFFS?”

When I think of the playoffs I think of seedings, pairings, division winners squaring off and even wild cards.

I do not think of 10 people sitting in some smoke-filled back room deciding who does and who does not deserve to play for a national championship.

I guess it is better than a bunch of old men dressed in colored blazers picking who goes to what bowl games and never once wanting to have even a hint of a playoff mentioned.

So we have come a long way.

However, giving the picks back to humans seems like a step backward.

Just a few years back, those in charge of the college game said humans could not be trusted, so they turned the selection over to computers.

It’s worked out well for the Southeastern Conference but nobody else.

Now we are putting it back in the hands of humans.

As Charlie Brown would say seconds after Lucy again pulled the ball away as he was about to kick it, “Aaugh!”

Seems like the new system is taking one step forward and two steps back.

A four-team playoff is a good start. Having humans decide those four teams is going back into a bad past of politics and questions.

Ask any two people which are the four best teams in the land and you will likely get two different answers. Now add five times more folks to the equation and you can see the issues about to come up.

And we haven’t even started on the politics.

Each will have pressure on them to pick the “right” four.

Think of all the arguing we already have when it comes to picking a president. And people will care about these winners.

Pat Haden can’t go back to the other Pac-12 athletic directors if he votes against one of them making the playoffs. It will be the same for all the others.

More people involved in the process just means more politics and more chances of corruption.

There is a way to solve this: expanded the playoffs to 16 teams and let the players decide the champion.

Each of the big conferences, there are five now, can send their champ and runner-up automatically. That would take up 10 spots. Then there are six left for the rest of the country with no league allowed to send more than three.

Perfect setup.

Play the first round at the higher seed’s home, then, when teams lose, they start going to bowl games. It might make for better bowls since the best teams will be playing longer and have less time between their last game and the bowl itself.

College football needs to find a way to keep the players on the field the focus, not the players off the field.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at

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