College Football Playoff Committee Doesn't Need a Recusal Policy

Samuel ChiCollege Football Playoff GuruApril 4, 2014

IRVING, TX - OCTOBER 16:  (L-R) Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, introduces Jeff Long as the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee on October 16, 2013 in Irving, Texas. Long will serve as the chairman of the 13 member committee that will select four teams to compete in the first playoff at the end of the 2014 season.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The College Football Playoff committee, charged with selecting the four-team playoff beginning in the 2014 season, has put together a recusal policy for its 13 members. The proposal is now being considered by the 10 conference commissioners for approval.

Let's hope that policy proposal is just a blank piece of paper.

Why? Because frankly, the committee should not need it. And having a recusal policy is worse than not actually having one.

The recusal policy is a copycat legacy from the selection committees of other NCAA sports, particularly basketball, where committee members have to excuse themselves when their institutions are up for discussion. It's there to give an air of transparency and propriety.

But it doesn't really work.

While it's a nice cover, most of the time the recused member often returns to the room only to find that his school was treated fabulously by his cohorts. It's not hard to figure why—when you have to spend 72 hours breathing the same stale air and eating day-old cold pizza, you're not going to antagonize your fellow inmate if you don't have to.

And the concept of a recusal policy particularly is ill-suited for the College Football Playoff committee.

Background of CFP Committee Members
MemberEmployerAlma Mater
Jeff Long (Chair)Arkansas*, Pitt, OU, VaTech, MichiganOhio Wesleyan, Miami (OH)
Barry AlvarezWisconsin*, Iowa, Notre DameNebraska
Michael GouldAir Force, Mountain WestAir Force, Northwestern
Pat HadenUSC*, NBC (Notre Dame)USC, Loyola, Oxford
Tom JernstedtNCAA, Mountain West, Big 12Oregon
Oliver LuckWVU*, NFL EuropeWVU, Texas
Archie ManningCBSOle Miss
Tom OsborneNebraskaHastings, Nebraska
Dan RadakovichClemson*, GT, LSU, SoCar, Miami (FL)Indiana (PA), Miami (FL)
Condoleezza RiceStanford*Denver, Notre Dame
Mike TrangheseBig East, ProvidenceSt. Michaels College
Steve WiebergUSA TodayMissouri
Ty WillinghamUW, ND, Stan, Rice, NCSt, MSU, CMUMichigan State
*Current employer; only jobs relating to college athletics listed

Unlike the selection committees for other sports, this committee is composed of an eclectic assortment of individuals, not just a bunch of athletic directors and conference commissioners. Only five of the 13 members are active ADs, and a majority of them don't currently work in college athletics.

They come from diverse backgrounds, often with a long list of employment history. Most of them have advanced degrees and attended multiple colleges. It would be absurd to ask them to recuse themselves just because somewhere along the road they once drew a paycheck or earned a diploma from an institution in question.

Take Tyrone Willingham, who's been a head coach at three schools and an assistant at a handful of others. If he has to leave the room every time one of those schools comes up for discussion, he might as well find a sofa in the hallway and get comfortable.

And where do you draw the line beyond employers and alma maters? Archie Manning's son Peyton went to Tennessee, whereas Oliver Luck's son Andrew went to Stanford. How about the chair, Jeff Long, who was a high school teammate of Michigan coach Brady Hoke and whose wife is from Ann Arbor?

The bottom line is that these are grownups who have over 100 years of experience in college athletics, not to mention government, military, business, law and journalism. They should know how to handle themselves even in a messy situation—that's why they're on the committee in the first place. 

If a playoff spot is up for grabs involving one of the schools near and dear to a committee member, he or she should stay in the room and be part of the discussion. The committee then should be able to rigorously and intelligently defend its decision, without the cop-out of a recusal policy.

We expect nothing less. 

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