SCI Talks with Tom Jernstedt of the College Football Playoff Committee

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SCI Talk hosts Tom Jernstedt of the College Football Playoff Committee to discuss the major changes happening in college football and more widely in the NCAA.

On Monday the inaugural College Football Playoffs will culminate when Rose Bowl champ Oregon squares off against Sugar Bowl victor Ohio State in the national championship, a matchup that wouldn’t have happened under the old BCS system. Tom Jernstedt of the College Football Playoff Committee joins SCI Talk to give his insight on these changes and other major shifts in college athletics he has seen in his 38 year tenure with the NCAA.

Jernstedt got his start in the NCAA as a second string football player for the University of Oregon in the mid 1960s. In his ensuing 38-year NCAA career he served many roles and helped manage vast changes, including developing 88 Division I, II and III men’s and women’s NCAA championships and overseeing the expansion of the men’s basketball tournament, where television contract revenue has increased from $1.2 million in 1972 to $10.8 billion in 2010. Now retired from the NCAA, his experience landed him on the College Football Playoff Committee, responsible for ranking and ultimately selecting four schools for the inaugural playoff.

“As a long time football fan, the exposure that the sport of college football has generated this year via the four team playoff is a wonderful example of the difference in one year’s time,” Jernstedt said. “If it had been the BCS this year, with a computer determining for the most part who the teams would be, it would have been Alabama and Florida State. The matchup between Ohio State and Oregon is going to be very exciting.”

The CFP Committee is comprised of 13 members, including 5 acting athletic directors. Beginning mid season, they met for 8 consecutive weeks in Dallas, Texas to rank teams and steer the playoff system closer to the championship. Members who directly worked for an institution under discussion would leave the room.

“The conversations were pointed and stimulating, and there were a lot of disagreements, but never hostile,” Jernstedt said. “We’d take a vote, and everyone would move on to the next issue.”

Another major issue affecting all NCAA sports is the degree to which student athlete aid and amenities can be decided by individual institutions, such as the recent decision to grant greater autonomy to the so-called ‘power five’ conferences.

“There’s no question in my mind that a majority of the Division 1 membership did not want to vote that way, but the threat of the power five leaving the NCAA and forming an alternative organization was even more bothersome,” said Jernstedt.

Just because the five biggest conferences voted for more autonomy doesn’t mean they are all marching to the same beat though.

“There is some turmoil within those conferences,” Jernstedt says. “For those at the bottom that are trying to elevate their programs and some in the middle that are trying to get to the top, it will be a real struggle for them to come up with the additional money that will be required to fund some of these new ideas.”

While the idea for the College Football Playoff took a long time to happen, the question now isn’t whether the system will stick, but how it will look in the future.

“The same people who voted for four (teams) could reconsider and go to eight, but most of what I’ve read seem to think four is about right,” said Jernstedt. “That will be a hot topic.”

Listen to the full interview at:

About SCI
SCI supports competitive goals in athletics through understanding, preventing, and resolving destructive conflict both inside and outside the lines. SCI serves as a knowledge center and provides a range of services to help ensure student-athlete experience is part of a healthy university culture while optimizing performance on and off the field of play. Conflict is inevitable, but how we respond determines whether success follows or costs mount. SCI Founder Joshua Gordon has over 20 years of conflict management experience.

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