Play­off com­mit­tee dis­cusses lo­gis­tics

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FANS EXTRA - By Tim Tucker ttucker@ajc.com

With less than three weeks to go un­til the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off se­lec­tion com­mit­tee’s first rank­ings of the sea­son, and less than three months un­til the na­tional cham­pi­onship game at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium, play­off of­fi­cials con­vened in At­lanta this week for a se­ries of plan­ning meet­ings.

They cov­ered a range of top­ics over three days, in­clud­ing pub­lic safety, sta­dium op­er­a­tions, cre­den­tial­ing, tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion and an­cil­lary events.

The CFP, which is in its fourth sea­son, will play its cham­pi­onship game in At­lanta for the first time Jan. 8. Hold­ing the event in a sta­dium that opened this sea­son in­tro­duced new vari­ables into the plan­ning.

“We got fur­ther along early on plan­ning an­cil­lary events here be­cause we knew we’d have to back­load sta­dium (lo­gis­tics),” said Michael Kelly, the play­off’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. “I won’t say we’re ex­actly where we need to be on sta­dium, but we’re where we planned to be.”

Based on what they’ve seen of the sta­dium, in­clud­ing at the two Chick-fil-A Kick­off games dur­ing La­bor Day week­end, Kelly and CFP Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Bill Han­cock ex­pressed con­fi­dence it will per­form well for their show­case event.

They like the prox­im­ity of down­town ho­tels and other venues be­cause that setup cre­ates a walk­a­ble “cham­pi­onship cam­pus.” A three­day fan fes­ti­val will be held in the Ge­or­gia World Congress Cen­ter lead­ing up to the game. Con­certs are planned in Cen­ten­nial Olympic Park. An open-to-the-pub­lic me­dia day is set for Philips Arena.

Inside Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium, Kelly said he is par­tic­u­larly im­pressed by the ameni­ties and gath­er­ing spa­ces through­out, in­clud­ing on the up­per level.

The re­cent news that the sta­dium’s prob­lem­atic re­tractable roof will be closed for all events the rest of this year ex­cept an Oct. 22 At­lanta United match didn’t con­cern CFP of­fi­cials be­cause they de­cided months ago to play the cham­pi­onship game with the roof closed.

Han­cock said that was an “easy de­ci­sion,” made to en­sure fans and teams in ad­vance that the play­ing and watch­ing con­di­tions would be op­ti­mal and pre­dictable.

The CFP cham­pi­onship game has been played in two other re­tractable-roof sta­di­ums, both times with the roof closed.

Here is a weekly up­date on col­lege foot­ball’s road to At­lanta:

SEEK­ING VOL­UN­TEERS

At­lanta’s host com­mit­tee is seek­ing more than 2,000 vol­un­teers to help with var­i­ous fan events sur­round­ing the game.

Vol­un­teer re­spon­si­bil­i­ties will in­clude hos­pi­tal­ity, trans­porta­tion, ac­cess con­trol and op­er­a­tions. Shifts will range from four to six hours, with at least three shifts re­quired. Vol­un­teers must be at least 18 years old.

If in­ter­ested, go to www. atlchampgame.com/vol­un­teer to regis­ter.

TOP-FOUR SNAP­SHOT

This sea­son has taken un­ex­pected twists and turns al­ready — Florida State los­ing its start­ing quar­ter­back and three of its first four games; Ok­la­homa los­ing to Iowa State — and un­doubt­edly will take many more be­fore four teams are cho­sen for the play­off.

The Associated Press and coaches’ polls agree on the top three teams this week: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clem­son and No. 3 Penn State. The polls di­verge on the No. 4 team, with the AP putting Ge­or­gia in that slot and the coaches go­ing with Wash­ing­ton.

Ul­ti­mately, though, those polls will have no bear­ing on the play­off field.

The 13-mem­ber se­lec­tion com­mit­tee will re­lease its first rank­ings of the sea­son Oct. 31 and then up­date them weekly through “se­lec­tion Sun­day,” Dec. 3. The top four teams in the com­mit­tee’s fi­nal rank­ings will make the play­off, with this sea­son’s semi­fi­nals in the Rose and Sugar bowls on New Year’s Day. The win­ners will come to At­lanta to meet one week later.

THIS WEEK’S KEY GAMES

No games on this week­end’s sched­ule match teams ranked in the AP poll — the first time since Nov. 21, 2009, that a col­lege-foot­ball week­end this late in the sea­son fea­tures no head-to-head matchups of AP Top 25 teams. (That has oc­curred twice in Septem­ber since then, ac­cord­ing to AP: 2012 and 2016.)

But here, nev­er­the­less, are a cou­ple of games Satur­day that could have play­off im­pli­ca­tions down the road:

No. 6 TCU (5-0) at Kansas State (3-2): Af­ter backto-back wins over Ok­la­homa State and West Vir­ginia, the Horned Frogs are the Big 12’s only un­de­feated team and, at the moment, its best hope for a play­off berth. K-State de­feated TCU 30-6 last sea­son.

No. 10 Auburn (5-1) at LSU (4-2): Auburn, whose loss was out of con­fer­ence to No. 2 Clem­son, seeks to stay on pace with Alabama in the SEC West. But Auburn hasn’t won at LSU since 1999.

Of course, you never re­ally know which game(s) will have play­off im­pli­ca­tions. Who would have guessed Ok­la­homa, which ac­com­plished a sig­na­ture win at Ohio State last month, would have its play­off hopes shaken by a home loss to 30-point un­der­dog Iowa State last week?

ASKED AND AN­SWERED

Q: Who is on the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee this sea­son?

A: Texas Tech Ath­letic Direc­tor Kirby Ho­cutt (com­mit­tee chair­man), for­mer Vir­ginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, for­mer South­ern Miss coach Jeff Bower, for­mer Cen­tral Michi­gan coach Herb Deromedi, Robert Mor­ris Pres­i­dent Chris Howard, for­mer NCAA ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Tom Jern­st­edt, for­mer Van­der­bilt coach Bobby John­son, Arkansas Ath­letic Direc­tor Jeff Long, Ore­gon Ath­letic Direc­tor Rob Mul­lens, Clem­son Ath­letic Direc­tor Dan Radakovich, Ohio State Ath­letic Direc­tor Gene Smith, for­mer USA To­day col­lege foot­ball re­porter Steve Wieberg and for­mer Stan­ford, Notre Dame and Wash­ing­ton coach Ty­rone Willing­ham.

MIKE STE­WART / AP

Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium will have its roof closed for col­lege foot­ball ti­tle game.

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