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CFP Committee Getting Clearer

The group of college administrators responsible for creating the new football postseason format are moving closer to defining a selection committee, Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick confirmed Thursday.

Jack Swarbrick said Notre Dame’s athletics director will remain a part of the college postseason governing board in the foreseeable future.

Creating the selection committee, Swarbrick said, is the biggest item remaining on the agenda for the governing body of the new College Football Playoff. He said the process is ongoing, but they have moved from talking about the committee in generalities to specific people who will pick the four teams that compete for a national championship starting in 2014.

Sporting News reported Wednesday that current athletics directors would be included in the group that, despite previous statements to the contrary made by executive director Bill Hancock. Swarbrick agreed that was the “most likely outcome” at this point. He said he and the group of conference commissioners decided they did not want to stray too far from the formulas used by other sports.

“I think we would be well served to have some athletic directors involved because that model has worked so well in selection across other NCAA sports,” he said. “That’s a tough job, too, and they manage it pretty well.”

Once the committee is in place, there will be a joint effort to decide how often they will meet to rank the teams, how they will deliberate and what criteria they will use to ultimately decide who fills the four playoff slots each season. The CFP board does not plan to release a weekly poll that will compete with the Associated Press and coaches’ polls.

Swarbrick expects the new process won’t punish teams as severely for losing a game in adverse conditions. If a ranked team loses, for example, while missing its starting quarterback for a single game or in a tough road environment, the selection committee will take that into account more than the previous BCS formula.

“I’ll be shocked if there isn’t a significant difference whenever it’s released between the selection committee’s rankings and the polls,” he said.

Two items that won’t be changing in the near future are the size of the playoff or the make-up of the governing board. That includes Notre Dame’s seat at the table. Earlier this week South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier told reporters at SEC Media Days that all 14 coaches from his conference struggled to figure out why Notre Dame’s athletics director was included among the conference commissioners on the CFP board.

Despite Notre Dame’s closer relationships with the Atlantic Coast Conference moving forward, Swarbrick said he’ll remain in that group for the foreseeable future.

“That won’t change. … I think people have said that for 20 years,” Swarbrick said in response to Spurrier’s comments. “You sort of don’t react to it. I’m very comfortable with the reasons Notre Dame is there and the value it provides, as I hope my colleagues are. It’s not an issue inside the group.”

He also said he doesn’t anticipate the number of teams involved in the playoff to grow anytime soon. He believes the CFP board won’t cave to pressure from fans to expand to eight or 16 teams quickly for several reasons. Chief among them is that college athletic departments need the football regular season to keep its importance if they are going to remain financially healthy.

The fear is that if the playoff becomes too long or too large in magnitude it will detract from the regular season. Swarbrick cited the excitement around college basketball’s March Madness compared to dwindling attendances numbers in early season games as a cautionary tale. Athletic departments, which are overwhelmingly dependent on revenue from football, can’t afford to have more empty seats on Saturdays in the fall.

“I can’t tell you how important that factor is in all of this," Swarbrick said. “We’re all dealing with it. You turn your TV on for one of those November or December basketball games, even with really high quality opponents, the venue may be empty. We really have to be careful about that, and we were.”

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