LINCOLN — Tom Osborne had wanted to attend this year's BCS national championship game between Florida State and Auburn in the Rose Bowl. Osborne had even recently taken in an FSU practice, where he was just as impressed with the Seminoles' wide receivers as he was with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
Snowy weather and canceled flights nixed his plan. But he can probably get a good seat for the Rose Bowl next year.
After all, the retired Nebraska athletic director will be one of 13 College Football Playoff committee members deciding who will play in the semifinal there.
The Bowl Championship Series took its last breaths Monday when FSU beat Auburn 34-31. It lived 15 years. Though it generally succeeded in its top goal — to match the No. 1 and No. 2 teams — few fans or pundits would have wished the BCS a longer life.
Now a four-team playoff — with a most obvious name — settles in as the postseason model in the Football Bowl Subdivision for at least the next 12 years. And Osborne, who's won three national titles of his own, will be in the middle of the proceedings.
Osborne conceded he's a little excited — and ready for heat from media, coaches, players and fans. He expects there to be at least as much criticism for the committee as it picks four teams to play for a national title as there was for the human polls and computer formulas picking two.
“I guarantee you: If you're not one of the top four, you're still going to have some pretty good argument that you ought to be there,” Osborne said. “A number of teams will feel that way. It'll be analyzed and scrutinized more heavily than any selection committee ever has been.
“You have such a small number right at the top.”
The committee's primary goal next December: Find the right four teams. Until then, Osborne said, the committee — which includes five athletic directors, former Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning, a former USA Today sportswriter and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — must put the final touches on what metrics will be most important, how teams will be measured against those metrics, when committee members will recuse themselves from discussions when the teams in question hit too close to home, and how many committee members will speak publicly after the choices are made.
Osborne's pretty confident he knows the answer to that last question: Committee Chairman and Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long will likely handle the media.
“I would assume it'll be wiser for at least much of the process to try and speak with one voice,” Osborne said. “Otherwise you'll stir up more controversy than you already have if there are 13 opinions being expressed.”
Osborne said the committee has scheduled three meetings between now and late September — the first is in a “couple weeks” in Dallas — to hash out all details.
“The main order of business we'll have for the next two or three meetings is trying to determine not only what parameters we'll be looking at but how you'd prioritize those,” Osborne said. “You're not going to weigh each one equally, certainly. We're trying to establish ground rules.”
Wording on the College Football Playoff website says that committee members “will have flexibility to examine whatever data they believe is relevant to inform their decisions.” But the website also states won-loss record, strength of schedule, conference championships and head-to-head competition to be key factors. Osborne added injuries to his list of variables.
“If somebody's gone through a whole season and on the last play of the last game, somebody loses their starting quarterback, I think you'll have to factor that in,” Osborne said. “But your starting offensive left tackle certainly wouldn't give the same weight as your quarterback.”
The committee still has to hash out under which conditions members would recuse themselves from discussions about certain teams. Osborne said he already knew he wouldn't be present for talks about Nebraska.
But what about Osborne's input on Big Ten teams? Or certain Big 12 teams — against whom Osborne coached for decades? Would former Stanford and Washington coach Tyrone Willingham recuse himself when talking about the Pac-12? Would athletic directors of specific teams be kept out of talks about any team in their league? Along with picking four teams for the playoff, the committee will in given years select and place teams in at least three “access” bowl games — the Fiesta Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. Those decisions, Osborne said, have “tremendous financial implications” on conferences and will be “equally controversial.”
To guard against factions forming, Osborne said, the committee has already agreed on a “no provincialism” rule.
“If it appears somebody's doing extensive lobbying and operating outside the bounds of what the committee would desire, that person won't be paid much attention to,” Osborne said.
Would statistical data — its opinion rooted in objective mathematics — help guide debates? Osborne said the committee will have as much data as it wants.
“The big question — and I think this will be decided over the next few months — is how much do you want?” Osborne said. “You can be so overwhelmed with statistical information that it becomes more of a burden than a help. Is turnover margin more important than net punting?
“One thing I do know: We'll look at the kicking game. Seems like when the game is broken down, so many times people talk about offense and defense and there isn't a whole lot of attention given to the kicking game. ... That's one thing that those who have been coaches will tend to bring to the forefront.”
Even then, Osborne said, judgment calls won't satisfy every league, team, coach or player. With the responsibility will come criticism. Osborne heard his share as a coach. He's prepared for his share in this process, too.
“When you look at the BCS, usually two teams had sorted themselves out by the end of the season,” Osborne said. “But this is not true of 3-4-5-6-7. There's going to be a lot of controversy in that regard.
“The committee's going to find there's a little more heat than maybe they're anticipating.”