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Bill Hancock, Archie Manning talk playoff

DALLAS, Texas -- The buzz at the media headquarters for the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T began Friday morning with the announcement of the newest class of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Archie Manning was there to represent the National Football Foundation, but as a member of the playoff’s selection committee, he also answered a few questions about watching this year’s playoff unfold from the outside, as his health prevented him from participating this season.

Manning, along with College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock, spoke on a variety of topics. Here are the highlights:

There could be fewer weekly rankings in 2015: With a shorter season, there could be a natural window for the selection committee to meet fewer times next fall, meaning fewer rankings would be released. The season will only be 14 weeks instead of 15 because of the way the calendar falls. The selection committee met seven times during the 2014 season.

“With a shorter season, that almost makes it -- I don’t want to say a done deal -- but with a shorter season, I think it will be pretty easy to lop off one week and we might knock another one off,” Hancock said, adding that the committee hasn’t talked about any changes yet.

Manning wants to participate in 2015: Manning hasn’t determined whether or not he will be on the committee next fall, but said, “I want to do it.”

“I’m going to talk to Bill, we’re going to figure it out,” Manning said. “I’m still doing some rehab, gotta just see how things go.”

Cost of reimbursement: Hancock said it will cost the playoff an estimated $500k to reimburse parents and guardians of Ohio State and Oregon players for their airfare, meals and lodging to the national championship game.

“We can absolutely afford to do this,” Hancock said. “I was delighted to get that call from the NCAA telling us it could happen.”

The news happened so quickly that the playoff announced its reimbursement amount of $1,250 before the NCAA released an even larger approved amount of $3,000.

“I learned about it that morning,” Hancock said. “We had to hustle a call together to get approval to proceed. As you know I worked for the NCAA for many years before I came here, and I’ve never seen anything turn around as quickly as that one.”

Playoff not discussing eight-team format (anymore): In spring 2012, playoff officials considered “a whole spectrum of options” for its format, including an eight-team playoff and a 16-team playoff. Hancock said fan travel and conference championships influenced their decision to stay at four.

“There’s a lot of reasons our group isn’t talking about expanding this,” Hancock said, “a lot of reasons they put in four for 12 years. The conference championship games are important to those conferences. That’s one of the things that was an issue with eight when we looked at it.

“We know there is a tipping point beyond which the size of a postseason bracket will begin to erode the regular season,” he said. “The fact is, nobody knows where that tipping point is. We know it’s not four.”

Hancock said the playoff’s management committee also worried about what a larger bracket would do to the regular season and the bowl games, and he said the quarterfinals would have to be played on campus.

Hancock said the discussions about having the semifinals on campus “stayed alive for a long time” because of guaranteed crowds and one fewer week of fan travel. After meeting with the athletic directors, though, the playoff officials were convinced they’d be better off having the semifinals in bowl games.

The athletic directors told playoff officials they couldn’t duplicate the pageantry of the bowls or match that experience, and that their stadiums are usually winterized, their staffs are home and the offices closed for the holidays.

“That turned it from semifinals on campus to having it like we do now in the bowls,” Hancock said, “which was a good decision on our part.”

Future title game homes: Hancock said eight to 12 cities have expressed interest in hosting the national championship game for the years 2018-2020, and the winning cities will be announced in September.

“There will be tremendous competition amongst cities for this. I think the first time around, we had lots of interest from cities, but I don’t think it quite dawned on people what a significant event this is, and it’s going to grow into. So there will be a robust competition among the cities.”

One true champion: Hancock said he hasn’t spoken with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby about the league’s method of determining a conference champion, and that it’s not his place to do so.

“That’s not our call, that’s the conference’s call,” Hancock said. “As it turned out, not having a championship game cost them only in the fact that Ohio State got another game against a quality opponent. What’s been lost in some of this championship debate is, the risk-reward nature of championship games.

“If two games had come out differently, the Big 12 would be looking like geniuses for not having a championship game,” he said. “It’s all about risk and reward.”