By Nicole Comparato
ORLANDO, Fla. — Bill Hancock thinks he’s the luckiest guy in sports.
His dream of one day being the director of a football championship has turned into a rare opportunity to help change the landscape of college football — and also the way Americans celebrate New Year’s Day.
Hancock is the executive director of the College Football Playoff, which he admits is a not-so-clever name for the replacement of the Bowl Championship Series system. He previously directed the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship and the now-extinct BCS, and is confident this is what fans want.
“We finally have a bracket for college football,” Hancock told members of the Association for Women in Sports Media on May 24 at a convention breakfast.
He took questions from those in the room, as well as Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, about what this new playoff will look like, the criticism it will receive and how it might change in the 12 years it is contracted to continue.
The inaugural year of this new system — which he noted would bring three times more revenue to the conferences — will take place in the 2014-15 season. The best four teams will be chosen by a selection committee to play in the Sugar and Rose Semifinal Bowls on Jan. 1, 2015, and the winners will face off in the National Championship on Jan. 12, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Each team will have equal access to be considered for the bowls, and no team automatically will qualify.
There also will be games for the next best teams behind the top four, including the Orange, Cotton, Atlanta and Fiesta Bowls on Dec. 31.
“These holidays will belong to college football,” Hancock said. “You better have a TV set if you are having a New Year’s Eve party.”
While the College Football Playoff will be managed by the 10 FBS conferences, a small staff in the playoff’s office in Irving, Texas, will carry out the details.
However, the 13-member selection committee will carry the weight of some fans’ heavy hearts when it comes down to the end.
Several AWSM members in the audience had questions for Hancock about the makeup of the selection committee, which includes NFL great Archie Manning and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The committee also includes current university athletic directors, which sparked questions about bias on the committee.
Hancock quickly waved off that assertion.
“Integrity, integrity, integrity,” he said. “These people were selected because of their integrity. They are going to do what’s right. We have a recusal policy, they don’t vote on their own team … So no, I’m not concerned about bias.”
Bianchi asked why the College Football Playoff is slated to be in place until 2025, which seems like a long time for a test trial. Hancock said there will be little changes depending on how it goes this year and in coming years, but this will be the best way to introduce it.
“We wanted stability in the event,” Hancock said. “We wanted folks to sit back and realize that this is going to be here for 12 years.
“Let’s relax, and enjoy it, and learn it and come to love it over that period of time.”