Notre Dame can stay independent and compete for title, CFP director says

In spite of recent comments from coaches that Notre Dame should join a conference, there is no discussion of forcing independent teams to become a member of a league in order to participate in the College Football Playoff, CFP executive director Bill Hancock said Thursday.

"The three independents are perfectly happy being independent," Hancock said of the Irish, BYU and Army. "They have the ability to craft their schedules to fit their needs. If their need and goal is to be in the playoff, then they're in the same boat as everybody else. You better play a good schedule if you want to be in the playoff."

Notre Dame's status as an X factor in the playoff was a topic when SEC, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 coaches recently visited ESPN. Many coaches shared the opinion that all teams should be in a conference and play a league title game.

Cal coach Sonny Dykes went so far as to say the NCAA should help the sport standardize schedules so that the College Football Playoff selection committee can judge teams on a more even playing field.

"Without a doubt I think that's the next big shift in college football, is to standardize or make uniform the number of conference games, conference championships, everyone belong to a conference," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I think that's the next wave you're going to see, is that will be the big push, much like the NFL. Make things more standard throughout college football."

Hancock had a different take, saying the freedom of scheduling is part of what makes college football special.

"The fact is it's not going to change," Hancock said. "The conferences all have reasons for scheduling and deciding their champions the way they do. It's important to each one of them.

"Frankly, in the committee room, it wasn't a factor. The committee has the luxury of looking at the full body of work from an entire season -- 12 or 13 games -- for each team, irrespective of what conference they're in. Having been in the committee room, I can tell you, it's just not a factor."

The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference that doesn't play a championship game. Notre Dame obviously doesn't play one either.

Would the Irish miss out on the playoff during a season in which it had a comparable résumé to a league champ?

"The risks and rewards of conference championship games will always come into play," Hancock said. "I feel the same way about Notre Dame that I feel about the Big 12. It's impossible to quantify the effect of a championship game because you don't know who's going to win the game."