• The College Football Playoff is in its fifth season of existence. Still confused about how things work? We're here to help.
By The SI Staff
October 26, 2018

By Ross Dellenger

And down the stretch we go. The busy season of college football has arrived. Snow is delaying Big Ten games, the potential playoff field has been whittled to a small few, and some coaches are within days of being fired.

Oh, and the College Football Playoff committee begins its weekly meetings at the Gaylord Texan resort in the suburbs of Dallas. That starts next week, with the committee’s first rankings scheduled for release Tuesday night. The 13-member committee meets each week for six weeks, delivering its final rankings on Dec. 2, Selection Sunday. You’ve probably got a few questions about the CFP committee, so we’ve cobbled together a refresher in Q&A form.

How are committee members selected?

Over dinner. Well, not really. One of the inaugural members was, indeed, invited to join the committee over dinner with executive director Bill Hancock, but that was an anomaly because of the invitee’s status: It was Condoleezza Rice, the former United States Secretary of State.

Hancock nominates committee members and then the CFP’s two-part governing boards must approve them (a board of conference commissioners and a board of university presidents). Hancock is like an athletic director and the CFP is his school. The committee members are his 13 coaches. Each generally serves a three-year term, and, yes, Hancock has a list of potential replacements in his head. The committee has six new members this year.

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Who are the current committee members?

The members range in background, but Hancock attempts to have at least one committee member from each of the following groups: former coaches, former players, former journalists and school administrators. The current committee includes …

- Six school administrators: Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, Robert Morris president Chris Howard, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury and Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin

- Five former head coaches: Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech), Jeff Bower (Southern Miss), Herb Deromedi (Central Michigan), Ken Hatfield (Air Force, Arkansas, Clemson, Rice) and Bobby Johnson (Vanderbilt)

- One former-sports journalist: Paola Boivin, a former newspaper reporter for The Arizona Republic

- One former college football player: College Football Hall of Famer and former USC defensive back Ronnie Lott

Why do they release weekly rankings when only the final edition matters?

Money! Hancock will tell you otherwise, but you can’t deny ESPN’s strong influence (ratings!) in the committee producing five weeks worth of … worthless rankings before the real thing. ESPN acquired the rights to broadcast all CFP games through 2026—along with getting the rankings before anybody else each week.

On Dec. 2, the final rankings drop and we get to see who’s in—and who's out of—the playoff. Hancock’s pitch to explain weekly rankings is this: He doesn’t want college football fans to be blindsided Dec. 2.

How do they produce the rankings?

The committee’s ranking process is very structured. Through the course of voting, each member inputs teams into individual computers that feed into one main computer that tabulates results. Members first input their top 30 to create a pool of what usually is about 34–36 total teams. The pooling and voting process can get complicated, but we’ll try to dumb it down.

There are seven rounds, and each round includes a pooling process and voting process. In a pooling process, members are asked to choose teams—not rank them!—for certain slots. For example, in the first round, members might be asked to input their top six teams in no order. Those teams are then added to a pool for ranking. A ranking process then begins in which members are asked to rank their top four teams among those six in the pool. Got it? Good. That whole process happens six more times until, finally, you get to Nos. 21–25 and you got your 25.

The main computer tabulates results and ranks the teams as the process marches on. At any point, members can re-rank a specific round with three votes. That’s that.


Taylor Ballantyne/Sports Illustrated

Nearly five years after stepping down (he did not retire) as NBA commissioner, David Stern is still trying to determine the future of basketball. (By Chris Ballard)

The second episode of Fall of a Titan: The Steve McNair Story is out. Give a listen to our serialized SI True Crime podcast here.

The convictions in the federal college basketball trial were a decisive win for prosecutors and a frightening warning for others. (By Michael McCann)

How Raptors coach Nick Nurse, the former pole vaulter and British legend, dissected Phil’s Bulls, called plays like Chip Kelly, and arrived at his moment: Competing for a title and Kawhi’s lasting happiness. (By Jake Fischer)

Baseball's pace-of-play problem is as glaring as ever, and it's hurting efforts to spread the sport among younger generations. (By Jon Tayler)


Danny Hellman

By Dan Gartland

Concocting a creative costume is always tricky, and it’s even harder if you’re dead set on pulling off a sports theme. We’re here to help.

Patrick Mahomes

What you need:

• No. 15 Chiefs jersey, curly wig, headband, a cannon in your right sleeve

Take your Halloween party by storm the way Mahomes has taken the NFL. But if trick-or-treaters come to your door, just politely toss the candy to them gently.


What you need:

• No. 23 Lakers jersey, movie clapboard, beret, riding crop

Want to know why LeBron went Hollywood? Look at his IMDB profile: His production company, SpringHill Entertainment, has close to 20 projects out or in the works.

Carlos Ramos and Serena Williams

What you and your friend need:

• Blue cardigan, white pants; black tennis one-piece (we'll let you figure out who wears which costume)

Put the boo in your Halloween by getting in a very loud argument that inspires partygoers to take sides.

Gritty's Father

What you need:

• No. 19 Flyers jersey, orange wig and beard, Gritty doll

The official origin story for the new Philadelphia mascot states only that "his father was a 'bully,' " but take one look at Gritty and it's clear he's a descendant of former winger Scott Hartnell.

The New Kyrie

What you need:

• No. 11 Celtics jersey, globe, Neil deGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

After spending the better part of two years espousing the theory that the Earth is flat, Irving corrected himself earlier this month. Pay homage to his enlightenment by entertaining partygoers with tales of bosons, leptons and quarks.

Check out six more sports costume ideas here.


George Steinbrenner didn't seem like the kind of character to embrace Halloween. The Boss was known for his insatiable desire to win, prickly attitude, and temperamental nature. If nothing else, he didn't have time for Halloween. Yet we have photographic evidence that at least once he slipped into costume. In March 1993, SI outfitted Steinbrenner in a Napoleon costume and sat him atop a white steed. According to the cover story of the issue above, Steinbrenner "didn't hesitate" to dress up as the former Fench emperor.

So don't hesitate with your costume idea, either. The Boss says so.


Editor's note: Below are some of our favorite stories of the week not published by SI. This week's list is curated by Ross Dellenger.

A central figure in the college hoops trial has a stern warning, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports.

PSA: The "quote" that Washington coach Chris Petersen "said" about Alabama ... is fake, as Adam Jude of the Seattle Times explains.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is just beginning to deliver on sky-high expectations, The Athletic's Matt Fortuna writes.

Via Robert D. McFadden of the New York Times: Remembering the remarkable story of Joachim Ronneberg, who helped sabotage Hitler's nuclear program. Ronneberg passed away last week at 99.

Tennessee football continues to roll out some of the best punters in the country. David Ubben of The Athletic introduces the denist (!) who's helped make it happen.

Editor's note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let's chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.

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