Skip to main content

The CFP Selection Committee Somehow Made Notre Dame a Sympathetic Figure

A specific aspect of the selection protocol may cause the Fighting Irish's coaching tumult to punish them even further.

Just when you thought you’d seen it all in college football, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly up and left for LSU (the first ND coach to leave since 1907) while the Fighting Irish are in the thick of a College Football Playoff race.

For years, talking heads have pearl-clutched about whether players skipping exhibition bowl games would bleed into one sitting the playoff out. It hasn’t happened yet, but it might happen in the coaching ranks if Notre Dame is able to make the dance.

The top of the rankings stack up like this coming out of rivalry weekend:

And it’s ND at No. 6 that is curious. It is not at all out of the realm of possibility for the Irish to make the playoff. The easiest route for it to happen would be if Georgia beats Alabama in Saturday's SEC championship game and if either Cincinnati or Oklahoma State also lose. In that scenario, the Irish would waltz right into that playoff four.

But what if it’s borderline? What if the committee is trying to parse the Irish and someone else edgewise? Well, the committee has a protocol that might apply to Notre Dame.

“Other relevant factors such as unavailability of key players and coaches that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance," reads the "principles" section of committee protocol.

SI Recommends

But the keyword there is “might”, per committee chair Gary Barta on the post-show media conference call.

“[T]here might be one committee [member] who thinks, 'Hey, this team might be more motivated with their new coach,'" Barta said. "Or I've seen games where a quarterback who starts or running back that starts, they put in the next person and the team actually plays better. So it's a piece of information that the management group has said the committee is able to use, but all 13 members may end up using it slightly differently when they place their vote. That's the beauty of the way the committee works. We all have this criteria that we need to use, we're responsible for using. How each committee member uses that in their vote might be a little different for all 13.”

Watch NCAA football games online all season long with fuboTV: Start with a 7-day free trial!

Water sufficiently muddied, modus operandi sufficiently vague. If ND happens to be an edgewise case, they might factor in the fact that Notre Dame may have either an interim coach, a promoted one currently on staff or another mystery candidate. Maybe they’ll care, maybe they won’t. And when you consider that, you cannot help but feel a bit bad for the Irish players as they spend the next few days in quite a bit of uncertainty. It certainly isn’t their fault. 

More College Football Coverage:

Projections for Every College Football Bowl Game
Defensive Players at the Forefront of the Heisman Race
Lincoln Riley Avoids SEC Mayhem, Forges His Own Path
Blockbuster Power Moves Headline Wildest Week in College Football History

Sports Illustrated may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.