As a former college football player, Dan Radakovich is as much fan as athletics administrator during the season. That helps explain why he wants the new structure to determine a national champion done right.
Radakovich, Clemson’s athletics director, is a part of the committee of 13 charged with selecting four teams for the first major college football playoff.
Sometime near the middle of August, the committee will reconvene. By charter, they must meet seven times annually. “We have begun to go through the process of discussing how we create the Top 25 poll,” Radakovich said. The poll crafted by the committee will be published weekly from the end of October through the conference championship games.
Radakovich said he plans to log a lot of time watching and analyzing games.
“I’m not much of a golfer, so I’m not giving up a whole lot of time on the golf course,” Radakovich said. “It’s going to be my biggest hobby in the fall, dedicating it to understanding all the things I need to understand in order to be a great committee member and help make a great decision.”
The committee also includes former coaches, administrators, NFL legend Archie Manning and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
With millions of eyes watching, “We wanted this to be as transparent a process as possible.”
Frequently lost in the focus on the final four is that the committee will rank the next group of teams to play in the other New Year’s bowls. They will assign teams to create competitive games with an eye toward geography while avoiding regular-season rematches and repeat appearances.
Winning a conference championship does not guarantee a berth, he said, nor does it disqualify a team that did not win a championship. “You really have to look at the entire body of work and say, ‘How are these teams stacking up at the end of the year and which is the most deserving to be in that playoff,’ ” he said. “Winning your conference championship is important, but the goal is to get the best four teams inside the playoff.”
Asked if “TV can make some suggestions,” Radakovich said, “No.”
One of the issues sensitive to the playoff management committee is how it impacts fans.
“The dollars and cents of it are very concerning,” Radakovich said. Four of the five major conferences, whose commissioners sit on the management committee along with the athletics director from Notre Dame, have playoff games.
Fans of a team that plays for its conference championship and is selected to the Final Four face extraordinary expense to attend three games beyond those they attended during the regular season.
“It’s not lost at all on the management committee of the College Football Playoff that we need to continue to make these games affordable and accessible to fan bases,” Radakovich said. “That’s one of the biggest question marks in this whole process. How the attendance will be is that X factor.
“I think that has been at very top of mind with the management committee,” he said, “That we be sure we provide the (best) experience not only for the fans at those schools but the students as well.”