By Mark Miller
As someone who has overseen the National Collegiate Athletic Association Final Four, college football’s Bowl Championship Series and the College Football Playoff, Bill Hancock knows what it takes to make high-profile events successful.
So when the CFP executive director says don’t expect much to change in Year 2, it’s because Year 1 went so smoothly.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” the 65-year-old Hobart, Okla., native recently said from his 10th-floor Irving office. “We planned, we role-played but we didn’t know. It’s like a coach going through August practice. He thinks he knows what the players are going to do but he doesn’t really know until the kickoff. So we really didn’t know.
“We thought we were ready. During the fall and during December have proven that this would be a tremendous event. It couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. And I think, it’s arguably the first signature sporting event created in this country since the Super Bowl.”
Such success means there will not be more than four teams or differences in the way current schools are chosen.
“There’s no talk about expanding,” he said. “When people ask me about expanding, I always ask them ‘why do you want to expand’ and there are two common answers. One is ‘I want to watch more football’ and the second one is ‘you would do away with people being upset.’
“To the more football matter, that’s a very good problem to have. I don’t mind that at all. To the second part, it’s just not true. You’re just not going to do away with disappointed people. Team 9, Team, 17, Team 33, Team 65 are going to be disappointed and rightly so.”
Perhaps nobody understands that better than Hancock with 16 years overseeing the NCAA Tournament and more than 10 years with managing the BCS/CFP.
“You understand what people think but in our business you get in trouble if you try to make everybody happy,” he said. “In sports if you have a popular event like we do, you have to understand that people who don’t get into it are going to be disappointed.
“We’ve only got four spots. We had it in the (NCAA) tournament when I was there. We had 64 teams and teams 65 through 70 were very disappointed and it still happens today. It goes with the territory and I wouldn’t trade it for anything because it shows what a popular event we have.”
The CFP’s first year worked so well, no changes were made to the format of the selection committee which still meets weekly from early November until early December at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine. The 12 members typically arrive Monday morning, then meet into the evening. They resume discussions the following morning before deciding and announcing their weekly rankings in the evening.
For selection weekend, they’ll arrive on Dec. 4 and announce the four teams on Dec. 6.
Hancock said one of the biggest differences with the CFP and BCS is trying to be as transparent as possible with the selection process. Despite best efforts, he said people still didn’t understand how the BCS system worked.
Most people do know the 2016 CFP title game will be in Glendale, Ariz. Ensuing years will have the title game in Tampa, Fla., in 2017, Atlanta in 2018, Santa Clara, Calif., in 2019, and New Orleans in 2020. While Arlington’s AT&T Stadium, site of the first championship in January, didn’t bid for those years, it will host one of this year’s Dec. 31 semifinals and again in 2018.
Hancock would love the Metroplex to host again but in the meantime, he’s happy to have one of the world’s best jobs.
“I’m so lucky. I’m getting to do things I never imagined when I was growing up in southwest Oklahoma,” he said. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
“I did the Final Four for 16 years and loved every minute of it. But when I got a chance to go to the BCS, I jumped on it because being an Oklahoman and near Texan, I love college football, always have, always did. So it was not a hard decision to come over to football.”