CFB Playoff recusal policy good as it gets

The College Football Playoff’s recusal policy is something fans -- and coaches -- are going to have to get used to.

Tyrone Willingham was an assistant coach at Stanford from 1989-91. He was head coach of the Cardinal from 1995-2001. He went to four bowl games while at Stanford and won a Pac-10 championship. Heck, he was even a volunteer coach there for the women’s golf team.

And yet he’s not recused from voting for Stanford in the four-team playoff.

Here’s why: Willingham is retired. He’s no longer receiving compensation from Stanford, nor is any member of his family. The recusal policy states very clearly that a committee member must only be recused if he or an immediate family member is paid by the school, if he still provides professional services for a school, or if he is on the coaching or administrative staff of a particular school, or a student-athlete at a school.

While this might be a hang-up for fans -- hey, Dan Radakovich was athletic director at Georgia Tech, too! -- there is simply no way to account for every allegiance each committee member might have.

If that were the case, Willingham wouldn’t be allowed to vote for Stanford, Notre Dame, Washington, Rice, NC State, Central Michigan or Michigan State.


“They’re not going to be able to pick anybody out there that doesn't have any type of allegiance with some school or some conference and have some knowledge about college football,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “I don't know how they would do that. Even if you picked all reporters at ESPN, they went to school somewhere.”

The committee’s full recusal list, which was released Thursday following the group’s final meetings of the preseason, covered all of the obvious ties. Jeff Long, who is the committee chair and acting athletic director at Arkansas, can't vote for Arkansas. Tom Osborne, who is the winningest coach in Nebraska history, can’t vote for Nebraska -- he’s still getting paid by the school. None of the sitting athletic directors -- and there are five of them -- can vote for their respective schools.

Walking out of the room is the easy part.

Shutting the door on the outside opinions might be difficult.

Odds are Archie Manning still has a few friends in the business.

“He’s not going to be swayed by anyone,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who coached both Peyton and Eli Manning. “That’s just called front-line integrity. When you pick a selection committee, that’s what the people involved in those choices put first and foremost.

“If we were involved in it, I would avoid calling him,” Cutcliffe said. “You're not a friend if you go there. I would hope that we would have coaches who would draw that line. If you want to publicly politic via an interview, why wouldn't you if you believe in your team? To pick up a phone and call anybody is bordering on all of these things we holler about in politics. That crosses the line. I don't think committee members at that point in time need to be taking phone calls from coaches.”

Even if they're in the same building.

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said he has no plans to talk to athletic director and committee member Barry Alvarez about the playoff.

“Coach and I have a tremendous relationship about Wisconsin football,” Andersen said. “Coach is excited about being on the committee. That’s a decision he made, and I don't think it’s my place in any way, shape or form to ever bring it up or discuss it. That’s his job, and I have my job, but I know this: He'll take great pride in it because his care for the sport is extreme.”

There is no escaping the numerous ties each committee member has, and no recusal policy could possibly account for all of them -- nor would you really want it to.

If Stanford is in the playoff this year, it’s because it deserves to be -- not because Tyrone Willingham is on the committee.

Besides, he played at Michigan State.