During his 32 years in college athletics, Jim Livengood has hired and fired coaches, endured an NCAA investigation and served as chairman of the NCAA men's basketball selection committee. On Nov. 26, Sports Illustrated gathered Livengood, now UNLV's athletic director, and 10 of his colleagues to simulate the process that will select participants for the first four-team college football playoff following the 2014 season. Using this season's results, the committee selected a mock playoff field for the 2012 postseason.
By the end of the 138-minute conference call, Livengood and the other athletic directors realized the myriad challenges that the selection process will present; many concluded that it will be more difficult than selecting 37 at-large teams in basketball. Among the biggest challenges: a finite number of teams that are difficult to compare; multi-million dollar stakes; lack of relative data; and potential conflicts of interest. "Wow, is this committee going to have pressure," Livengood said. "The thing that jumps out at me is that there are just four teams, it's not enough of a sample. I was not a proponent of going larger than four, and this changed my mind totally."
SI's mock selection committee exercise produced a simple conclusion: While the move to a four-team playoff has been largely praised, the resulting process may be more complicated and controversial than the current system.