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The fight over the College Football Playoff selection committee’s decision to snub undefeated Florida State University and pick the University of Alabama is spilling into the Senate, pitting Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) against his Republican colleagues from Alabama.
Scott, who attended the Florida State Seminoles’ last national championship victory in 2013 when he was governor, is demanding full transparency on the selection committee’s decision to bump Florida State from the national playoffs in favor of Alabama, which lost to Texas earlier in the season.
For Scott, the secret deliberations to deny Florida State the chance to win another national championship is the latest example of unfair decisions being made in America by unaccountable people behind closed doors.
Scott says Florida State “did everything they were supposed to do” by going 13-0 on the season and beating two highly-ranked teams, Louisiana State University (LSU) and Louisville.
“Was this a financial decision? If you did the right thing, you should disclose everything. Be up front about it. Disclose what happened, how they made the decision,” he told The Hill.
He’s worried that the selection committee may have been influenced by outside financial interests and he’s demanding the panel turn over all text, email and written communications among members of the selection panel and College Football Playoff company officials.
He also wants all records of communications between members of the selection committee and individuals not formally affiliated with the college football playoffs.
Scott noted that the South Eastern Conference (SEC), which is Alabama’s home, signed an exclusive 10-year deal with ESPN to broadcast it games starting in 2024. The contract is reportedly worth $3 billion.
“Here’s what we know. There was a financial interest by ESPN to have Alabama in. Was that part of the decision? I don’t know. Be transparent. Tell us what happened,” he said.
He argues that the college football playoff committee “did not follow the process” because Florida State entered the final week of the regular season ranked No. 4 in the country and won its last game against 16th-ranked Louisville in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship. Even so they weren’t among the four teams that made the playoffs.
Scott in a letter to Boo Corrigan, the chairman of the selection committee, pointed out that the decision to pass over Florida State will cost the school and the ACC $2 million worth of revenue distribution.
But Scott says the consequences for FSU’s football program could reverberate for years.
“Think about it. Now when FSU wants to recruit somebody, some kid’s going to say, ‘You’re never going to get to play in the playoffs because I can come and play here and do everything right and I’m still not going to play in the national championship.’”
Scott’s getting backup from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who has pledged to set aside $1 million for litigation expenses that may be used to seek justice over what he called “a really, really poor decision” to keep Florida State out of the playoffs.
“We are going to put aside $1 million and let the chips fall where they may on that,” DeSantis declared this week.
The harsh criticism of the college football playoffs is being met with an eyeroll from Alabama’s senior senator, Tommy Tuberville (R), who had a long and distinguished career in college football as the head coach of Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati.
“Ahh, that’s a waste of time,” he said of the demands that the selection committee turn over its records of the decision to seed Michigan, Washington, Alabama and Texas in the playoffs.
“They went by the criteria of who played the toughest schedule — all the criteria that they had,” he said.
“There’s nobody more experienced to talk about this than me. I got left out in 2004 and we were undefeated,” he said, referring to the Auburn Tigers team that went 13-0 that year.
He said the committee did “what they thought was right.”
“You feel bad for Florida State. I do. I’ve been in their shoes,” he said.
But Tuberville said “there’s not reason” to raise a fuss with the selection committee now “because it all changes, goes to 12 next year,” referring to the format change for the 2024 college season when 12 teams will be seeded for the national championship football playoffs.
Scott rejected that point, however. He’s not willing to dismiss this year’s snub of Florida State as water under the bridge.
“Wait, wait, wait, wait,” he said. “What about FSU this year? 13-0, undefeated, a Power Five [conference] team!”
Tuberville, meanwhile, was stunned that DeSantis set aside $1 million in the Florida budget to sue the college football playoff selection committee.
“A million dollars??” he asked incredulously.
“Not going to do any good,” he said, noting playoffs “start in about a month.”
“You wouldn’t have time to get anything done,” he said of a potential lawsuit. “It’s not worth doing.”
Alabama Sen. Katie Britt (R) also defended the selection committee’s decision, pointing out that Alabama got left out of the playoffs last year and Texas Christian University got the 4th seed instead.
TCU beat Michigan in an upset before getting crushed by Georgia 65-7 in the national championship game.
“I think Alabama was left out last year and then TCU — What was that score? Was it 65-7?” she said, tongue in cheek.
Britt still seemed ebullient about Alabama’s chances of winning a national championship on Thursday when she walked about of a press conference with Senate GOP Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and could be overheard saying, “Roll Tide!”
Al Weaver contributed.