Published Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 2:04 am
Shatel: Tom Osborne fits on a common-sense selection panel

When he coached Nebraska and then ran the athletic department, Tom Osborne was the Ward Cleaver of college football.

Have a seat in his den and Tom would break down the problem and give you a solution, if not your allowance.

Ask a tough question and Osborne always made you feel he gave the answer a lot of thought. And research. There are Nebraska sportswriters who received three-page, single-spaced letters from Osborne explaining his side of a debate.

All of this is why Osborne is a perfect choice to serve on the first College Football Playoff selection committee.

In fact, it looks like Ward Cleaver was the prototype — with one June Cleaver, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — to serve on this committee.

Of course, it can be argued that only a member of this committee would remember who Ward Cleaver was.

Is it a perfect group? No. There are already critics taking their shots at the process. It's college football. People aren't happy unless they're unhappy.

It would have been interesting to add a former player or two. Maybe someone who didn't play in the 1960s or '70s.

And you can say that a “numbers” nerd could have brought a welcome slide rule to the equation.

These are things that can be worked out in the future. For now, for starters, this group makes sense.

Common sense.

We've had too little of it in this game we love.

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We have a tendency to overthink and overanalyze these things. The latest worry is agendas and bias on the committee.

I suppose if the NCAA ever has a team in the top five, then Tom Jernstedt, a longtime executive in the NCAA office, will be in trouble. Who is Mike Tranghese, the former Big East commissioner, going to be swayed by? Georgetown?

Steve Wieberg, the writer in the bunch, is a Missouri grad. But I know Wieberg very well. Trust me, he won't be cutting the Tigers any breaks.

Humans are only human. But there's too much integrity on this committee to be a kangaroo court. And too many members to let one bias slip into the process.

Besides, to quote the philosopher Major Applewhite, this isn't calculus.

All this process has ever needed was a little common sense. Or a lot.

We could have used it in 1997, to get Nebraska and Michigan in the same place, same time.

We could have used it at various times in the BCS Era. Yes, in 2001. Common sense would have said Colorado or Oregon belonged in the national title game. But which one?

That was a year the four-team playoff would have made, well, sense.

The pieces won't always fit that well. As Osborne said on Wednesday, he had “some trepidation” about joining the historic group because it won't be easy. Most years there are two teams that stand out, but there might be several candidates to pick from to get to four, Osborne said.

They'll have a stack of RPI-type numbers at the ready. Osborne talked about the hours of video and DVR tapes they'll need to watch. He also talked about the importance of considering “consistency, not just total yards,” when trying to compare styles of offense. And things like third-down conversion rate and kicking game.

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These are important things to consider. You don't always get the former coach factor on the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee, and that's a good thing for the football playoff. It's something Osborne mentioned when he was asked why he wanted in.

“Somebody's gotta do it,” Osborne said. “And I like football. I watch it anyway. I thought I'd go ahead and do it.

“Mainly, I'm interested in trying to make sure we do as good a job as we can. And I feel like I can add something to it. They've got a lot of really good people who have intelligence, people who have made decisions and have good judgment.

“But I think it's important to have some people on there who know a little something about a zone blitz and a short-side option, which I used to run all the time, and everybody didn't like it.”

Osborne will also bring a sense of humor to the party, and that's welcome, too.

This will all come down to common sense, though. These Ward Cleavers (and June) will talk about the eye tests and the numbers and strength of schedule factors. And then come up with a smart, informed and logical solution.

They'll do that. And that's why this group and concept will work. Not to everyone's satisfaction, of course.

But it will beat the bowl politics and computer games of the past.

“You're trying to make this a meritocracy rather than some political choice,” Osborne said. “I think people will really work at it. They'll really try. I don't think they're going to push an agenda. I think they're going to be honed in.”

I wish they would push one agenda: strength of schedule. College football has never had a leader or a group that set direction and laid down the law. Here's a chance to do that, by rewarding strong nonconference schedules.

If they are strict with the application, they can change the way schools schedule and make the game better. That would be a positive influence.

Actually, I'd like to see a committee of this type in charge of bringing a common sense approach to issues such as athletes' stipends, athletes' rights, and the application of rules like targeting.

That makes too much, um, sense, to happen.

For now, this is a good start.

* * *

Video: Tom Osborne discusses his appointment to the playoff committee

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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