The College Football Playoff selection committee will begin meeting on Monday, Oct. 30, at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas. The committee will release its first official rankings of the season the following day. The committee’s 13 members will continue to meet in Grapevine every week until Dec. 3, when they will select the top four teams for the playoff and assign them to semifinal sites.
There are three new members on the committee this season: Frank Beamer, Chris Howard and Gene Smith.
If you’re not familiar with the selection committee, this will help:
Hocutt is in his third season on the committee, and this is his second year serving as its chairman. He is the public face and speaker for the group, which otherwise does not do interviews with the media. He was a four-year letterman at linebacker at K-State and led the Big Eight in tackles in 1993. He also chaired the NCAA Division I football recruiting subcommittee, and he was the athletic director at Ohio and Miami (Florida).
“As athletics directors, the five us that are around the table, I think look at different things and prepare uniquely in the way we believe is best for us,” Hocutt said. “I believe the same thing to be said by the coaches and other administrators around the table. I think it’s a uniqueness of not just the diversity with professional backgrounds, but the diversity of [the] 13 specific individuals is unique and productive for us as a selection committee.”
During ranking season, Hocutt said he unwinds by watching his two boys play middle school and high school football.
Beamer retired from coaching after the 2015 season, having served as Virginia Tech’s head coach for 29 seasons. He led the Hokies to 23 consecutive bowl appearances, four ACC championships, three Big East Conference titles and a trip to the national championship game after the 1999 season. Beamer said he and his wife initially had reservations about his joining the committee because of the time commitment.
“But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that this is exactly what I wanted to do,” Beamer said. “No. 1, it’s giving back to college football. And you are truly giving because they don’t pay you to do it. … It’s giving back. College football has been great to me. And then the other thing is, when you sit and realize who’s on the committee, it’s a pretty select group of people. I want to get to know them a lot better. To me, the pluses outweighed the minuses by a long stretch in being on this committee, after I gave it some thought.”
Along with Virginia Tech, Beamer is recused from Georgia, where his son Shane is the tight ends coach and special-teams coordinator.
Bower led Southern Miss to 14 straight winning seasons and four Conference USA titles in 18 years as the Golden Eagles’ head coach (1990-2007). Prior to Southern Miss, he was an assistant at Oklahoma State, Wake Forest and SMU.
“I have the utmost respect for Coach Bower, as he taught me a lot about being a great player and even more importantly on how to be a great man,” said former Southern Miss quarterback and current Golden Eagles radio analyst Lee Roberts. “You can attribute his success to his work ethic, high character and his integrity. It is truly an honor for Southern Miss to have Coach Jeff Bower serve on the selection committee.”
Bower said he used to be a scratch golfer, and he has won several tournaments and a club championship. He said he has adapted to the committee’s system relatively easily, “although it took time to get used to the process.” This year, Bower said he is “fine-tuning my routine and applying an extensive amount of data to make sure we make the best decision.”
Deromedi spent a combined 38 years at Central Michigan as head coach (1978-93) and athletic director (1994-2006). He retired from coaching as the winningest coach in MAC history after leading the Chippewas to three league titles. He served as the chairman of the NCAA football rules committee in 2003 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Howard is a retired Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel, and he received the Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan. He has an MBA from Harvard and is a Rhodes Scholar who earned his doctorate from Oxford. He was a vice president at Oklahoma before becoming president at Hampden-Sydney College. He became president at Robert Morris in 2016. He was a starting running back at Air Force and was the inaugural recipient of the Campbell Trophy in 1990, given to the nation’s top senior football scholar-athlete.
“I’ve dealt with some pretty intense situations in corporate America and higher education and in the military,” Howard said. “I’m not going downrange to fight the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. I’m choosing the best football teams to be represented when we get to that CFP.”
Howard said his wife, Barbara, a South African native, is actually the biggest college football fan in the house. In order to unwind during the season, he watches games with her, and walks their dog, Sammy, named after former Oklahoma student-athlete Sam Bradford, a Heisman Trophy winner and current Minnesota Vikings quarterback.
Jernstedt spent 38 years working at the NCAA, serving in various executive-level capacities. He oversaw the development of 88 Division I, II and III men’s and women’s NCAA championships. He directed all facets of NCAA basketball and was often referred to as the “Father of the Final Four.”
While he is known for his work in basketball, he was a scholarship football player at Oregon. “I was a weak-armed, slow-afoot quarterback who survived polio as a 6-year-old and was fortunate to go on to play football, basketball and baseball in high school,” said Jernstedt.
Johnson was the Vanderbilt head coach from 2002 to ’10, earning SEC Coach of the Year honors in 2008. He also served as head coach at Furman and was a defensive coordinator at Clemson, his alma mater, where he played cornerback and wide receiver.
Johnson said he usually plays golf on the day after each week’s rankings. “It helps me to get out for a while before going back to work for the Thursday night games,” he said.
As far as evaluating teams, he said, “I would guess that everyone has their own personal system and their favorite things to look for in a team. The CFP folks provide the very best in terms of statistics, which I also use to support the choices I make.”
Long is the athletic director and vice chancellor at Arkansas and served as the selection committee chairman in 2014 and 2015. He was a varsity letterman in football and baseball at Ohio Wesleyan.
Long is recused from Missouri, where his daughter is a freshman and has a job with the athletic department.
Mullens has been athletic director at Oregon since 2010. Prior to joining the Ducks, Mullens was the AD at Kentucky. Mullens said he tries his best to maintain his running routine during the season, which includes “30 minutes of peaceful time to clear the mind.”
“I’m fortunate to have a wonderful wife and two energetic boys [ages 13 and 10] to provide life balance and perspective.” he said.
Radakovich has been athletic director at Clemson, the defending national champion, since 2012. He worked at Georgia Tech in the same capacity prior to that. He said he exercises “a bit” more during the season. “Helps keep me centered,” he said.
As for his process during the season: “[I] kept the same routine for the first three years. It seems to allow me to be prepared and ready to fully engage in the meetings,” Radakovich said.
Smith has been the athletic director at Ohio State since 2005, having previously served in the same capacity at Arizona State and Iowa State. He has served on the NCAA committee on infractions, NCAA executive committee, NCAA football rules committee and NCAA men’s basketball selection committee. He was a member of Notre Dame’s 1973 AP national championship team.
“My service is to all of those student-athletes who compete at whatever school they’re at,” Smith said. “I’m blessed to have benefited from the sport personally and professionally. It gave me my career path. I never would have gotten out of Cleveland had it not been for football. That personal connection to it makes me want to do my best for the kids.”
Wieberg was a college football writer for USA Today and a sportswriter for more than 30 years. He covered 18 college football national championship games and every college basketball Final Four from 1983 to 2012.
“I started picking playoff fields, projecting the then-64-team NCAA basketball tournament for USA Today in 1989, before the term ‘bracketology’ was coined,” Wieberg said. “I continued for 13 years, often correctly picking 63 teams, but never going a perfect 64-for-64.”
Willingham was a head coach at Washington (2005-08), Notre Dame (2002-04) and Stanford (1995-2001). He was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year twice (1995, 1996).
He’s recused from Stanford, where his son is on the football staff, and Duke, where his daughter is employed.