This season, there will be a new face representing the College Football Playoff selection committee, as Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has taken over for Jeff Long as the committee chair. Hocutt recently chatted with ESPN.com about his new role, the perception of bias on the committee and the challenge of finding the four best teams to put in the playoff.
Are you ready to be the most second-guessed person in the world of college football?
Kirby Hocutt: You know, it’s an honor and a privilege for me to serve in this role. To continue to be part of a game that’s meant so much to me in my life, to be able to represent the collective voice of 13 individuals for an event that has become one of the country’s most popular sporting events in a short period of time is something that I look forward to. I think I’ve got pretty thick skin. I won’t take any of the second-guesses personally. I think we’re so fortunate to have in the game of college football the passionate fans that we have. Everybody has such loyalty to their team. That’s a great thing. Not everybody is going to agree with the committee. At the same time, we will commit the time and the effort to make sure we get it right. I think the first two years, the committee has shown it’s a process that works and one I look forward to being a part of in the chairman role.
There have been various criticisms from different corners about the composition of the committee. What are your thoughts on that?
KH: I would say the highlight for me serving on the CFP selection committee was the people. The relationships that were made. The integrity that is in that room. The commitment to doing the best job possible. That’s the highlight. We just got back from our review meetings in Houston, as well as the new member orientation. Getting to see everybody and reconnect was a highlight for me. As for the makeup of the selection committee, that’s something that’s above us. The CFP selection committee, our focus is on ranking the top 25 teams and putting the right four teams in the semifinal games and assigning the bowl games that are under our responsibility to do. The selection of the 13 individuals is the role of the management committee, the commissioners. I know that they continue to be committed to putting the best minds and makeup of a group that they can. I really applaud and value them for the former coaches in that room. I take a great deal of value and confidence to their perspective and what they bring and insight to our discussions each week. I know the management committee will continue to review the selection committee and make the decisions they feel appropriate there.
What was the biggest thing that surprised you your first year being part of the committee?
KH: I’m not sure if there were any surprises. Just the respect that is around that table. The respect of each other’s opinions. The respect for how we all look at the game of football and what’s important to us. We talk a lot. It’s an art. It’s not a science. What’s important to one particular committee member may be something totally different to another. It’s very respectful, a great team with great chemistry. Everybody is very respectful around the room.
Is the Big 12 at a disadvantage in any way not having a former coach directly from the league on the committee?
KH: We check our allegiances at the door. When you come into that room, we represent nationally the game of college football, and rank the top 25 teams. Sitting in that room for a full year, I can assure you the sole purpose of the collective team and every individual is to do what is right and rank the top 25 teams in the country. We’ve got a hat rack that sits outside of our meeting room door with all of our names on it. It’s a symbol that when you walk into this room, you leave any previous affiliations or current affiliations you have outside that room, and acting in the best interest of college football.
So you’re here to dash the hopes of Big 12 folks who were hoping for favorable treatment with you as chair?
KH: I tell you, it is an honor. Everybody is going to check their hat at the door and come in and have healthy and lively debate. I’ll do the best I can to sit there each week and describe the committee’s reasoning and thought process that went into the rankings.