SCARBROUGH'S TAKE

CFP … Sometimes There’s Just Not Much Good to Say

Lyn Scarbrough

December 06, 2023 at 11:29 pm.

“Nothing can be truly great which is not right”… Samuel Johnson, English poet, essayist and sermonist

“If you feel that something is wrong, you can’t hesitate to speak up” … Fred Korematsu, American civil rights activist

“If there’s nothing positive that should be said, sometimes it might serve you better to just say nothing” … paraphrasing Hilda Ferne Hyche Scarbrough, my mother

It’s been four days since the College Football Playoff Selection Committee announced its decision regarding which four college football teams had earned the privilege to contend for the national championship.

Unless you’ve spent this week under a rock, you know that the committee awarded that privilege to Michigan, Washington, Texas and Alabama.

I’ve pondered the quotes from the three scholars included at the start of this column since hearing about the committee’s decision. All three quotes are applicable.

It was my plan not to give an opinion about this. Say nothing. Write nothing. Act like it’s no big deal. But, unless you’ve been under that rock, you know that it immediately became a big deal and the big deal has exploded in magnitude.

It has been the most talked about topic in the sports world, but not only there. It was a major segment on Fox News … not only on Fox Sports. On CNN. On every television sports network. On radio news and sports talk programs. The butt of comedy routines.

As many other media people have undoubtedly experienced, I’ve had some phone calls, a good many social media messages, people stopping me at church services on Sunday evening, asking my thoughts, wanting to see our columns and have our comments on what is one of the biggest sports controversies in a long, long, time.

Ignoring this would be like discussing the paint color of inside walls, instead of addressing the elephant tromping around in that same room (pardon the pun).

Wish that the teams involved weren’t Alabama and Florida State. Both have passionate fans, some of whom will take criticism personally, thinking it’s directed only at their team. Both are located in Lindy’s primary footprint, both with affiliate stations that broadcast our Lindy’s Football Report radio network program each week. We have family members who attended both Florida State and/or Alabama.

Wish it was about Team A and Team B because this isn’t about any specific team or conference. It’s about fairness, consistency and precedent. The necessity that those principles should always be applied doesn’t change regardless of which teams it might be.

Taking the cowardly way out and ignoring this is one option. Instead, I’ll take my mother’s advice and say nothing direct, just list indisputable facts, then cite what others have said.

Just facts:

** There are five conferences – the Power 5 – each with a champion every season.

** In the current absurdly unfair system, there are only four slots for contenders, basically

a football musical chairs, where at least one conference/team will understandably

feel cheated every season.

** This season three of those conferences – Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast – had

champions that went undefeated in the regular season, then won their league title

game. Two conferences – Big 12, SEC – did not.

So what is being said about the situation? Here are some comments, a few from people

with a dog in the hunt, more from people that don’t have a dog.

Mark Bradley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I’ve been a working sportswriter since 1977. I’ve seen bad calls. I’ve seen poor choices.

I’ve never seen anything as egregious as what happened to Florida State. Had there been five unbeaten conference champs for four playoff berths that would have made for a difficult decision. But there were only three unbeatens.

“The excuse that FSU wasn’t the same without Jordan Travis doesn’t wash. (After his injury) they went 2-0, beat an SEC rival on the road and beat a ranked opponent at a neutral site – without him. They covered the spread both times. There is a word for what the committee did. That word is ‘unconscionable.’”

Paul Newberry, Associated Press, National Sports Columnist 

“Actually, college football got just what it deserved. Florida State being left out of the four-team playoff despite a 13-0 record and the ACC championship was the perfect capper to decades of illogical debate over the proper way to decide a national champion.

“The deciding factor in dropping Florida State was the loss of its dynamic quarterback Jordan Travis to injury. This was about one last bit of absurdity in how college football decides its champion.”

Booger McFarland, ESPN, former college and NFL player 

“This is a travesty to the sport. One team has a loss and that’s Alabama. One doesn’t in Florida State.” 

Mike Greenberg, ESPN 

“There is an objective way they measure teams in college football. They put those metrics into a computer and the team whose strength of record was third (nationally) was Florida State! Number Three! What they (FSU) accomplished was third-best of all teams in the country.

“Florida State won all of their games, anyone can get hurt at any time. … You know what happened? Football became figure skating.”

Dan Mullen, ESPN, former college head football coach

“In the game of football – and that’s what makes it so special – is you have to play the game and when you play the game, someone wins and someone loses. And you know what Florida State did; all they did was win.” 

Dean Straka, CBS Sports sportswriter 

“The unprecedented move by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee to leave undefeated Florida State, 2023 ACC champion, from its four-team field was met with immediate, justified blowback. A 13-0 run that began with a three-touchdown win over LSU and ran through the ACC regular season unblemished, only to be tested by the devastating injury to quarterback Jordan Travis, positioned the Seminoles as a team of true resolve able to win.”

Jermaine Johnson, New York Jets pass rusher

“It almost attacks the epitome and what in essence is football: If winning doesn’t get rewarded, perfection doesn’t get rewarded, I’m not quite sure what is then. It’s not good for the sport to punish a group of kids that did nothing but win, punishing a program that did nothing but fight against all that adversity and win.

“It’s not good for the sport. It’s not good for the players … It’s just not right.”

Mike Norvell, Florida State head football coach

“I am disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided that they knew better than the results on the games. What is the point of playing games? Do you tell players that it’s okay to quit if someone goes down?

“I’m hurting for our players who have displayed a tremendous amount of resilience and response this season. What happened (with the committee decision) goes against everything that is true and right in college football. A team that overcame tremendous adversity and found a way to win doing whatever it took on the field was cheated. It’s a sad day for college football.”

Michael Alford, Florida State, vice-president and athletic director

“The consequences of giving in to a narrative of the moment are destructive, far reaching, and permanent. Not just for Florida State, but college football as a whole.

“The argument of whether a team is the ‘most deserving OR best’ is a false equivalence. It renders the season up to (decision day) irrelevant and significantly damages the legitimacy of the College Football Playoff. The 2023 Florida State Seminoles are the epitome of a total TEAM. To eliminate them from a chance to compete for a national championship is an unwarranted injustice that shows complete disregard and disrespect for their performance and accomplishments. It is unforgivable.

“The fact that this team has continued to close out victories in dominant fashion facing our current quarterback situation should have ENHANCED our case to get a playoff berth EARNED on the field. Instead, the committee decided to elevate themselves and ‘make history’ today by departing from what makes this sport great by excluding an undefeated Power 5 conference champion for the first time since the advent of the BCS/CFP era that began 25 years ago. This ridiculous decision is a departure from the competitive expectations that have stood the test of time in college football.

“Wins matter. Losses matter. Those that compete in the arena know this. Those on the committee who also competed in the sport and should have known this have forgotten it. Today, they changed the way success is assessed in college football, from a tangible metric – winning on the field – to an intangible, subjective one. Evidently, predicting the future (is what now) matters more.

“For many of us, today’s decision by the committee has forever damaged the credibility of the institution that is the College Football Playoff. And, saddest of all, it was self-inflicted. They chose predictive competitiveness over proven performance; subjectivity over fact. They have abandoned their responsibility by discarding their purpose – to evaluate performance on the field.

“Our players, coaches, and fans – as well as all those who love this sport – deserve better. The committee failed college football.”

 

I think my mother had it right. Sometimes it probably is better to just listen to what others have to say.

This is one of those times … and I can’t find much that these folks said with which to disagree.

Hope everybody has a blessed Christmas season and enjoys the college football postseason … and that none of your team’s players, especially the quarterback, get injured before your game day!

And for what it’s worth, I strongly expect Alabama to win it all.