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CFP committee’s meddling will linger as NC State deals ACC another potentially fatal blow

We went through all this trouble over all these years to come up with a playoff to decide the champion team of the college football season on the field — from the Bowl Coalition to the BCS to the CFP — and we’re right back to where we were for a century, when it was left up to a bunch of semi-educated opinions.

If Florida State thumps Georgia in the Orange Bowl and one-loss Alabama or Texas wins the CPF title in desultory fashion, who could blame the AP Top 25 voters for choosing an undefeated team — with a big win over what was the No. 1 team in the country until the final week of the season — as their national champion instead?

It would be an appropriate riposte to the CFP selection committee, led by N.C. State athletic director Boo Corrigan, which gathered in a Texas conference room to overrule an entire season of results on the football field because the Seminoles won two games without ACC player of the year Jordan Travis. The AP voters have more credibility at this point.

We’re right back in the days when three undefeated teams would go to three different bowls and the AP voters would just vapor-lock and vote for 10-1 Nebraska by default while the coaches all voted for their pals.

By taking a current and a future SEC team over Florida State and falling for a narrative perpetuated by the SEC and ESPN — play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore spent the entire ACC title game arguing against Florida State’s inclusion while watching Florida State’s defense dominate Louisville, an anti-ACC infomercial broadcast by the ACC’s business partner — Corrigan’s committee lived down to the lowest expectations of it.

Dec 2, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Brock Glenn (11) throws against the Louisville Cardinals in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium.
Dec 2, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Brock Glenn (11) throws against the Louisville Cardinals in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium.

Winning with a third-string quarterback is an accomplishment, not a negative. The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have to give that Super Bowl back because Ray Lewis was so good even Trent Dilfer could win at quarterback. Florida State deserved the chance to prove it was good enough to (continue to) win without Travis.

Any football coach will tell you the gap between 13-0 and 12-1 is far bigger than the gap between 12-1 and 11-2. Going undefeated is hard.

If you’re not going to take a 13-0, undefeated conference champion like Florida State, then just skip playing the games entirely and take the top four in the preseason AP poll. Or top 12, starting next season. Why did we go through all of that when ESPN could have just picked Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame for us in August?

NC State’s chancellor Randy Woodson and new athletic director Boo Corrigan field questions from the media following Corrigan’s introduction at Reynold Coliseum in Raleigh in January 2019.
NC State’s chancellor Randy Woodson and new athletic director Boo Corrigan field questions from the media following Corrigan’s introduction at Reynold Coliseum in Raleigh in January 2019.

After all those years N.C. State complained about getting the short end of the stick from the ACC office, it’s sure getting its revenge now. First, chancellor Randy Woodson buckled and flipped his vote to allow an ill-advised expansion Ponzi scheme to proceed. Now, Corrigan has overseen a committee that not only kept the ACC out of the CFP for the third year running but cost the ACC two prime bowl berths: not only the CFP semifinal, but the spot in Tampa’s Reliaquest Bowl that would have gone to the ACC if Ohio State had ended up playing Louisville in the Orange Bowl.

You can’t blame Corrigan or the CFP for the chaos that followed in Charlotte, a disaster of an ACC bowl selection process that left both schools and bowls hanging for hours, because apparently nobody thought to come up with a contingency plan if Florida State wasn’t picked. Bowls and other conferences were tweeting out ACC opponents before the ACC actually announced them, in one case incorrectly.

N.C. State ended up in its preferred location in Orlando, but North Carolina, sent to Charlotte for the second time this season, and Duke, sent to Birmingham — the new Shreveport — both paid the price as the implications of the Florida State snub trickled down. Somehow, Notre Dame ended up falling all the way to the Sun Bowl, a consequence so unanticipated that bowl didn’t even have a helmet ready when it won a three-way drawing for the Irish. You know things are out of kilter when the Irish don’t get their way.

North Carolina State Athletic Director Boo Corrigan speaks during a press briefing on Tuesday, August 15, 2023 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., following the unanimous vote by the Centennial Authority to secure the long-term future of the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh and development of the property around PNC Arena and Carter-Finley Stadium.
North Carolina State Athletic Director Boo Corrigan speaks during a press briefing on Tuesday, August 15, 2023 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., following the unanimous vote by the Centennial Authority to secure the long-term future of the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh and development of the property around PNC Arena and Carter-Finley Stadium.

Under other circumstances, Corrigan’s CFP leadership might not have long-term consequences — although the decision to exclude the Seminoles is a travesty, either way — but given Florida State’s already itchy feet and the uncertainty over whether Clemson, North Carolina and others will try to exit as well, this feels like a death blow for the ACC, finishing the job that the contentious vote over the self-destructive expansion plan started.

If it’s clear, even with an ACC athletic director leading the committee, that the Big Ten and SEC hold all the power now and will hold all the power in the future, why yoke yourself to a conference that’s not only treated as second class now but chooses to add schools that will ensure it remains that way?

As if to underline that point, Corrigan’s committee also shafted impending ACC arrival SMU, by giving Liberty the credit for going undefeated it failed to give Florida State. Welcome to the league!

Whether it was Florida State getting dropped from the title picture, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips being largely silent all week while his SEC counterpart Greg Sankey was on TV and radio more than lottery ads, ACC Network partner ESPN clearly siding with the SEC or Sunday’s bowl chaos, it wasn’t exactly a banner week for the ACC.

The only thing holding Florida State or Clemson or North Carolina to the ACC is money, and once you get to that point, everything is negotiable. The lawyering will only intensify.

Why would those schools want to stay? Football drives the bus, and the ACC’s bus was just shoved off the road to let the SEC convoy through. Once again, the call was coming from the inside.

Whether he agreed with the committee he chaired or not — and he’s been running it for two years, so if he couldn’t steer its decisions at this point, he’s both weak and misguided — Corrigan has to own this. You break it, you buy it. He’s going to be the face of everything that’s wrong with college football — the politics, the insularity, the irrationality — for a very long time.

Thanks to Woodson and Corrigan, N.C. State may end up taking a heavy share of the blame for the eventual demise of the ACC itself.

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