East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, January 04, 2018, Page Page 3B, Image 11

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    SPORTS
Thursday, January 4, 2018
East Oregonian
Page 3B
College Football
Legit gripes? Maybe, but no change to college playoff format
By RALPH D. RUSSO
Associated Press
ATLANTA — Unlike
the Bowl Championship
Series, the College Football
Playoff was built to withstand
criticism instead of shifting to
respond to yearly griping.
That structure is standing
strong despite some blow-
back.
Two
Southeastern
Conference teams playing
for the championship on
Monday night in Atlanta?
Not a problem. Two Power
Five conferences left out of
the fi nal four, including Big
Ten champ and bluest of blue
bloods Ohio State? That’s
OK. Undefeated UCF never
getting serious consideration
for spot in the playoff?
Congratulations on a great
season, but that’s just the way
it goes, Knights.
Despite this storm, the
playoff is what it is for the
foreseeable future. No one in
position to fi ght for changes
has given any indication
tweaks are coming.
Especially not expan-
sion.
“The CFP was built
on a more long-term
foundation than the
BCS was,” College
Football Playoff exec-
utive director Bill Hancock
said Wednesday.
The playoff management
committee is made up of the
FBS conference commis-
sioners and Notre Dame’s
athletic director, but the
architects were mostly the
commissioners of the Power
Five conferences. Final
approval was given by a panel
of university presidents repre-
senting each conference. The
system was locked into place
with a 12-year television
contract with ESPN. This is
year four of that agreement.
“The BCS contracts were
four years,” Hancock said.
“After two years of every
agreement it was time to
begin thinking about the next
agreement.”
The reality is if the
commissioners
wanted to expand,
ESPN would not stop
them, but the contract
showed a commit-
ment to the CFP that
was often lacking in
the BCS. Frequently
with the BCS, debates about
which teams did or did not
make the championship game
or the other BCS bowls led
to changes to the selection
process.
Good intentions, but not
good optics.
Hancock
said
when
reacting to complaints the
goal was to make the BCS
better, but “in hindsight that
was not the best approach
because it contributed to the
public not understanding how
it worked or the perceived
mystery about it. And also
led people to believe that
the people who owned and
operated it weren’t really
confi dent about it.”
A month ago, on selection
Sunday, after Georgia and
Alabama (which did not even
play in the SEC title game),
were chosen by the selection
committee to play in the
semifi nals, Big Ten Commis-
sioner Jim Delany expressed
full confi dence in the playoff
and the committee. Pac-12
Commissioner Larry Scott,
whose conference was also
left out, said he believed there
was no reason to begin talking
about expansion.
SEC
Commissioner
Greg Sankey, Atlantic Coast
Conference Commissioner
John Swofford and Big 12
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby
have all echoed those
sentiments. Same goes for
American Athletic Confer-
ence commissioner Mike
Aresco, who watched his
league member, UCF, fi nish
the season 13-0 with a victory
against Auburn in the Peach
Bowl on Jan. 1.
Auburn beat both Georgia
and Alabama in the regular
season.
“At this point I still don’t
favor expansion,” Aresco
said. “I do think our teams
need to get a better shake, but
that’s a separate issue.”
UCF athletic director
Danny White doesn’t agree;
he wants changes.
White said he does
not question the selection
committee’s integrity, but
he does believe it has a bias
against teams from outside
the Power Five. UCF was
never ranked higher than
No. 12 in the selection
committee’s rankings. White
wants a return to the BCS
selection process, which used
a combination of media and
coaches’ polls and computer
ratings. The BCS rankings
were usually kinder to teams
from outside what at the time
was six automatic qualifying
conferences.
“You look at a Utah and a
TCU and Hawaii. Boise. They
had years like we had they
were somewhere near the top
fi ve. And we’re 12th,” White
said. “I just think that’s a
disservice. Because it doesn’t
solve the second part that I
think needs to change and
that’s I think the playoff needs
to be at least eight teams if
we’re going to call it a true
national champion, because
it’s not inclusive enough.”
And since White does not
believe the playoff crowns
a true champion, UCF has
declared
itself
national
champs . UCF football’s
offi cial Twitter account has
the title 2017 National Cham-
pions. School offi cials plan to
hang a championship banner
and have a parade in nearby
Disney World for the team.
White even said he planned
to pay former coach Scott
Frost, who is now coach at
Nebraska, and his staff their
championship bonuses.
“I look at schools all across
the country that are hanging
national
championship
banners for years they had
that weren’t even close to the
year we just had,” White said.
For now, though, White’s
calls for change to the CFP
are just shouts into an empty
room. He speaks for many
fans, but no one is listening.
RANCHER: Johnston is one of world’s best at shaping skiing race courses
Continued from 1B
Korea over the past two
years to inspect and shape
the Olympic terrain. “I really
enjoy it.”
Johnston has six weather
websites loaded onto his
phone — including one
from South Korea to keep
current on conditions — and
views them so often that his
wife Cassy recently had to
increase their phone’s data
plan.
He likes to give off a gruff
fi rst impression — “I really
don’t have time for all these
interviews,” he lamented —
but, during a leisurely tour
of the properties he oversees,
it’s clear he’s something far
removed from acerbic.
He’s proud of every
parcel of this land.
Here lies some of the
most sought-after alfalfa in
the county. On the other side
of a dirt road bordered by
badger holes, he shows off
his laser-leveled land that
produces various classes of
hay. They’re meticulously
planned out so water doesn’t
gather and ruin the consis-
tency of the crop. Across
the two-lane highway, reside
his roughly 125 head of Red
Angus cattle.
On the horizon, the
mountain range.
His life used to be a
cycle: haying in the summer
and, when it turned colder,
heading up to Jackson Hole
mountain resort so he could
coach and direct events the
ski club produced. John-
ston’s family would follow
him there — until the three
kids reached school age. He
eventually just pulled along
a camper or stayed at a cheap
place for a few nights before
making the 80-mileish drive
home.
Back then, Johnston was
sometimes spotted wearing
a jacket with these words
embroidered on the back:
“I’d Rather Be Haying.” He
honed his craft at Jackson
Hole — becoming a course-
shaping artist who would
water the slopes in extremely
cold temperatures to create
an icy surface that would
hold up from the fi rst racer
all the way to the last.
In 1998, the U.S. ski
team contracted with the
local organizing committee
for nationals. As director of
Alpine events with the ski
club, it was his show.
Johnston’s twists and
turns were a hit, along with
his organizational skills.
Soon after, he became a
technical adviser for the
U.S. team. He credits Tim
“Swampy” LaMarche, his
predecessor and another
course guru, for teaching
him the ins and outs of the
profession.
It’s all been trial by error,
too.
Johnston was chief for
the women’s speed events
at the 2002 Salt Lake City
Olympics and ran the show
for the women’s side at the
2014 Sochi Games. He’s
known for his aggressive
and durable snow, which is
precisely the way racers like
it. His preference is making
it with a snow gun instead of
letting Mother Nature do the
work.
“Manmade can be super-
fi ne particles so it’s really
dense,” explained Johnston,
who left for South Korea on
Christmas Day. “The natural
snow can be dry, fl uffy — a
real pain.”
He prepared the World
Cup course for the women
in Killington, Vermont, last
month and lent a hand at the
World Cup stop in Beaver
Creek, Colorado, which is
one of the racers’ favorite
venues on the circuit.
“The course crew in
Beaver Creek is probably the
best in the world,” Svindal
said. “We always have
perfect conditions.”
In South Korea, John-
ston’s main tasks include:
Build and maintain the snow
surface, including the macro
features such as jumps and
rolls, manage the snowcat
operators and installation of
safety features. His aim is to
help Russi’s downhill design
spring to life.
The men’s and women’s
downhill tracks vary only
slightly, with the men
starting at a higher spot
and diverging at one point
through a narrow gully
before merging again. Along
the way, there will be four
major jumps, which have
been modifi ed since a test
event held at the site nearly
two years ago. The changes
should provide smoother,
safer landings for the skiers
who will be traveling around
80 mph (128.7 kph).
“We have changed the
landing zone of the jumps,”
Russi said. “(It) means that
the jumps will go longer this
time. For sure, I will like
it. But I will be nervous as
well.”
On his farm two months
ago, Johnston was worrying
more about his hay crop than
the ski slope after a quick visit
to South Korea for course
inspection. There was a snow
storm about to blow through
and he still had to stack 200
tons of hay. His wife — who
works as a dental hygienist
and helps in the fi elds in the
afternoon — was driving a
truck to haul the bales, while
two more workers pitched
in. They were up until 1:30
a.m. to accomplish the feat.
It snowed three hours later.
Tom and Cassy met at
the Green Mountain Valley
ski school in Vermont as
teenagers and got married
in 1986. She occasionally
travels with him to races,
where he’s been known to
ride with the snowcat oper-
ators at night as they groom
the course or sleep with a
radio next to his pillow so he
can hear the chatter of those
working on his hill.
Quality speed courses and
hay are his pride and joy, and
they have more in common
than you might think. Both
take attention to detail. Both
depend on Mother Nature.
Neither can ever be perfect.
Not that he’ll ever stop
trying.
“I get really fussy
with every element,” said
Johnston, a former racer at
Montana State and Whitman
College in Washington,
where he earned his degree
in English literature. “The
guys that hay for me, my
wife, it drives them crazy.
I’ve never put up a good hay
bale, because there’s always
this wrong with it or that
wrong with it. Same with a
course.
“But give me good
weather and it will be a good
course,” he said.
OSAA: Committee also supports pilot program to explore six-man football
Continued from 2B
The OSAA staff is
contacting schools this week
to fi nd out if they would
exercise that option. The
information collected will be
part of the discussion at the
committee’s next meeting
Jan. 9.
“The reality is there
maybe are schools that don’t
want to do it,” Weber said.
Schools opting to move
down would do so on a
two-year basis, after which
the OSAA would review
their status.
The committee has yet
to consider benchmarks for
those schools returning to
their original classifi cation.
“What if you send a 6A
school down to 5A and they
go 7-2 and 8-1?” Weber said.
“Then it probably becomes
easier to say, ‘We should
probably move them back
up.’ But those are conversa-
tions that the details haven’t
been fl eshed out.”
With
the
potential
movement of so many
schools, the ad-hoc football
committee has proposed its
own districting plan, a break
from the one the executive
board approved in October.
The football-only plan would
include larger districts to
address competitive balance
and scheduling concerns.
Class 6A would have
43 schools in four special
districts and Class 5A would
have 36 schools in three
special districts. Each special
district would have the
option of splitting into two
divisions.
“Our schools, at least in
6A, are looking for some
fl exibility, and they believe
that having those larger
leagues provides them with
that,” Weber said. “It leaves
them open to determine
their nonleague, and make
sure they’re getting those
competitive matchups where
they can.
“Depending on how
it’s done, it could mean an
increase in nonleague games.
If there are 12 schools in a
league, they could split into
six, and say, ‘Hey, we’re
going to play fi ve games on
this side, and then go fi nd our
nonleague games.’ They may
be on the other side of the
district, or they may be from
somewhere else.”
The special-district plan
would add a wrinkle into the
playoff qualifi cation process,
to be addressed by the state
championship committee.
“We’ll get to that as we
go,” Weber said. “I’m sure the
football ad-hoc committee
would weigh in on that.”
The football committee
also is supporting a two-year
pilot that would allow
schools with an adjusted
enrollment of 89 or fewer to
play six-man football.
The committee is aiming
to present its recommen-
dations at the next meeting
of the executive board Feb.
12. Changes would require
approval of the executive
board and the delegate
assembly.
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