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National college football officiating coordinator Rogers Redding told USA TODAY Sports on Monday that he'll select officiating crews for College Football Playoff games using a similar process as he did for games under the Bowl Championship Series banner.
However, Redding also said that College Football Officiating LLC -- a group formed by conference commissioners and the NCAA -- was in the process of building a long-term strategic plan that will include "possible models for more regionalization" of officiating, potentially opening the discussion of whether officiating should be managed from a centralized national office instead of conference by conference.
"We may evolve to that," Redding said. "It hasn't been a big part of the discussion right now. Officiating is going to be conference-based in terms of training and assignments, but we already have some coalitions going on, the Big 12, Mountain West and Southland are a consortium. The Big Ten and MAC and Missouri Valley are somewhat of a consortium. So there's already a modicum of regionalization going on even as we speak."
Though nearly every aspect of the College Football Playoff selection process has been questioned and dissected in recent months, very little attention has been given to how officials will be chosen to work the two semifinals and the national championship game. Even officiating coordinators for the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences were in the dark until this week's semiannual meeting in Newport, R.I.
But officiating has the potential to be one of the most explosive aspects of the playoff system, particularly given the perception that there are large schisms between conferences in officiating style and competency.
Terry McAulay, an NFL official who worked this year's Super Bowl and also serves as coordinator of officials for the American Athletic Conference, told USA TODAY Sports last week that he thinks the playoff will be a catalyst for nationalizing college football officials at some point in the next dozen years.
Though Redding wouldn't go that far, he acknowledged that there will be increased scrutiny on officiating selections and that adjustments to the process could be made next year if conference commissioners aren't satisfied with the level of officiating in playoff games. "We're treating this with the kind of heightened attention it needs," he said.
Redding said only crews from the five so-called power conferences -- the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 -- will be eligible to work the semifinals and championship game. At the end of the regular season, the officiating coordinators for those leagues will each submit what amounts to their all-star crew -- supposedly based on current season performance -- to work playoff games.
After the matchups are set, Redding will then choose from the three "neutral" crews for each semifinal. If Alabama and Oregon are matched up, for instance, the SEC and Pac-12 crews wouldn't be eligible for that game.
"The coordinators' commitment to us is they're going to be very serious about evaluating officials and the people they put forward as a crew," Redding said. "The conference's reputation is on the line, and the coordinator's reputation is on the line in terms of how the crew operates.
"I want them to tell me why this guy's in the game, evaluations during the year, what their body of work is over time, how they rank at their position, what kind of bowl experience they have and what kind of experience working with nationally ranked teams so we get people in the games who are experienced in those kind of high-profile situations."