GRAPEVINE, Texas — In alertness for the countdown affair of the Academy Football Playoff alternative committee, Allison Doughty went on a mission. She capital to accomplish abiding the committee’s affair location, a lath allowance overlooking the atrium at the Gaylord Texan Resort, was secure. Afterwards all, aback it hosts the lath members’ deliberations, the allowance includes a behemothic bump awning and two flat-screen monitors that affectation the rankings and added cardinal information. Could bodies in the atrium see through the floor-to-ceiling windows for an central blink at academy football’s best backstairs process? The bedfellow balconies anon above the atrium on the third attic were a concern, too. So she did some area scouting.
“I’ve been in those apartment on the added ancillary to see if bodies could appearance in,” Doughty says. “I took pictures and actuality from over there.” Now the alternative committee’s allowance has what no added lath allowance windows in the alveolate auberge have: white arduous curtains. “We didn’t appetite anybody cutting in.”
Casual academy football admirers apparently apperceive Bill Hancock, the authoritative ambassador of the Academy Football Playoff aback its conception in 2012. They apparently admit the big names on the alternative lath (Frank Beamer, Ken Hatfield, Gene Smith) amenable for selecting the participants of the playoff, accumulating the final Top 25 and allotment the New Year’s Six basin pairings. But they about absolutely don’t apperceive Doughty, or the four bodies who are the alone non-committee associates with a bench central the allowance during the calefaction of the debate.
They alarm themselves the “flies on the wall”, a quiet aggregation of CFP advisers who accomplish the sport’s capital rankings run smoothly. “They are bashful assemblage in there to support,” CFP lath ambassador Rob Mullens says. “Everybody has their role, and they’re abundant at their role.” This is a adventure about the staffers acknowledging football’s best able committee.
There is Doughty, the ambassador of contest and accommodation services, who monitors the affairs from alfresco the room. There is Wes Gentry, a 37-year-old above Denver Post announcer who is the committee’s IT guy (formally, the ambassador of administering and technology). Aing is arch operating ambassador Andrea Williams, a above Texas A&M two-sport amateur and Big Ten ambassador who larboard her job as the Big Sky Appointment abettor to be Hancock’s right-hand woman.
Senior ambassador of operations and acumen Laila Brock is the actual aboriginal actuality to apprentice the playoff participants because she controls the voting blueprint computer in the lath allowance (when they pop assimilate her screen, she says her affection begins to batter “out of my ”). As the committee’s communications arm, Gina Lehe is in allegation of sending the email absolute the final four for the aboriginal time to ESPN producers—but not afore account over the account “900 times,” she says.
“We started with account infielders who can do anything—back anniversary added up, footfall in if accession couldn’t accomplish it,” Hancock says. “They can still all do anything, but they’ve got added set roles now.”
Committee associates and staffers bang off their busiest and best important amplitude of the year this week. They’ll accommodated afterwards anniversary of the final six weekends of the division to aftermath a new Top 25, with the aboriginal one appear on Tuesday night on ESPN and the final rankings and playoff participants appear on Sunday, Dec. 2, on what’s accepted actuality as Alternative Weekend.
For the bristles CFP staffers, Alternative Weekend is a pressure-packed scene, and Lehe ability accept the best cogent role. As allotment of the acceding with ESPN, the CFP allows the arrangement to advertise the playoff teams in a alive appearance that Sunday. Lehe sends the email about 45 account afore that show, at 10:45 a.m. CT. “I’m actual afraid every week. I attending it over and over and over again,” she says. Hancock estimates that alone about 20 people—committee members, staffers and ESPN producers—know the playoff teams afore they beam assimilate the screen. The ESPN producers don’t alike allotment the after-effects with on-air aptitude like Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit. There has not been a aperture in the system’s aboriginal four years.
CFP authoritative ambassador Bill Hancock sits aing to Laila Brock during a lath meeting. In the accomplishments to the larboard is Gina Lehe’s bend desk. A backup sits in her seat. She was carrying her additional babe at the time of this meeting.
Inside the room, Lehe sits at a lath in the corner, authoritative the projector and two flat-screen monitors to accommodate beheld aides for lath members, who are built-in at amphitheater tables positioned in the appearance of a U. Alfresco the room, Lehe is amenable for all alien relations: communications, agenda media and branding. Annihilation with the Academy Football Playoff logo charge be accustomed by her. Those Dos Equis commercials announcement the playoff with above coaches Steve Spurrier and Les Miles? Lehe saw avant-garde versions of them months ago.
Gentry is the computer advocate in the lath room, built-in in a armchair forth the wall, accessible to bounce into activity whenever any one of the lath members’ laptops or the 14 flat-screen televisions fail. He describes his job alfresco of the allowance as “a lot of cardboard pushing.” Brock facilitates the lath meetings, befitting associates on agenda through the voting circuit and account off the after-effects from the voting blueprint computer. In her amateur year aftermost season, the final playoff after-effects accustomed to her monitor—Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama—and she briefly froze. “I had to booty a footfall aback and breathe for a minute, accomplish abiding I’m account them in the appropriate order,” she says, bedlam now. Alfresco of the room, she books aptitude for the playoff’s accessible contest and handles fan functions at the semifinals and championship games.
Williams controls the statistical comparisons that advice the lath accomplish its decisions. If associates appetite to analyze Ohio State and LSU’s backbone of schedule, or argue the box account from a team’s alone loss, she pulls that up on the massive flat-screen monitors. She gets a adequate seat, too, appropriate aing to the chairman. Alfresco of the room, she operates the championship d and semifinals, while additionally managing the behest activity for approaching appellation d sits. Locations of the aing six CFP championship amateur are set, and affairs for Indianapolis in 2022 and Los Angeles in 2023 are already underway.
The CFP agents visits the host armpit of the accepted year’s appellation d account and anniversary approaching championship armpit two to three times a year. It’s a lot of travel. Lehe’s four-year-old daughter, Adriana, took 100 flights afore she angry 2. Lehe brings her everywhere. Adriana was with the CFP from the actual start: Lehe delivered her oldest babe three canicule afterwards the aboriginal final rankings came out in 2014. During that countdown Alternative Sunday, she was added than nine months pregnant. “We had the auberge on standby,” Lehe says, “but she didn’t appear until after.”
That aboriginal year was interesting. Resort admiral had aegis admiral brindled throughout the property, assured a Academy GameDay–type atmosphere alfresco of the lath room. “You know, admirers everywhere and stuff,” Doughty says, “That didn’t absolutely happen.” In fact, there accept alone been two fan sightings a the lath room. On the aboriginal Alternative Sunday, a man cutting a Florida State jersey creepily ambuscade in the hallways of the Gaylord Texan was escorted out of the resort.
Another time, a ancestor and son popped in on a mid-season Tuesday night, able-bodied afterwards lath associates had left. “They about wandered up here. ‘Oh, is this the room?’ They looked about and took some pictures,” Doughty says.
Once, Doughty phoned aegis to investigate a man cutting Alabama accessory walking the halls. “Turned out, it was aloof a accidental guy actuality from a biologic appointment cutting a ’Bama shirt, and he didn’t alike apperceive we were here,” she says. “Everyone aloof affected he was a crazy Alabama fan!”
On lath affair days, Doughty’s duties go above security. She makes abiding the auberge accommodation agents keeps a deluge of candy alfresco of the lath room: bowls of peanut M&Ms, a fridge of ice chrism goodies, accoutrements of pretzels and chips, and the best important chow of all, a basin of bacon beneath a abating lamp aloof alfresco the affair room. “They like brittle bacon,” she says. It is actuality in this exoteric allowance that Doughty lingers while deliberations go bottomward abaft the bankrupt bifold doors. Lath associates are recused from discussions that absorb teams in which they are connected, and those associates tend to adhere out in the bacon room.
She’s gotten to apperceive a few of the common recusals well, like Beamer, who cannot participate in deliberations involving Virginia Tech, area he coached, or Oklahoma, area his son now coaches. “He’s got this dog,” Doughty says. “The dog is called Hank. So it’s Frank and Hank.”
The staffers and lath associates central the allowance become accompany quickly. Afterwards all, they are ashore together, sometimes for 10 hours and assorted canicule at a time, abnormally arch up to the final rankings, aback all of them are cloistral in the resort and break in auberge apartment bottomward the anteroom from the lath room. Alternative Weekend begins Saturday with lath associates and staffers watching appointment championship amateur in one of the adjunct rooms. Afterwards amateur are completed, they accumulate in the lath allowance for deliberations that have, in the past, lasted until 3 a.m. Sunday, arising with a abounding Top 25 afore aition in their suites. “Everyone sleeps on it,” Brock says.
So the CFP staffers apperceive the playoff participants the night afore they are announced? Sometimes. The lath resumes deliberations Sunday morning, mostly reviewing the Top 25, allegory anniversary aggregation and sometimes re-voting. Has there been a change in the top four during the Sunday morning analysis process? “No agnosticism about it,” Lehe says. “We’ve had some changes.”
Don’t ask her any added capacity because she won’t accord them. The CFP staffers are apprenticed to clandestineness through their agent handbook. “They’re loyal to the process,” says Mullens. It’s not consistently easy. These are academy football admirers aloof like the blow of us. They apperceive the capacity of why Ohio State and not TCU or Baylor absurd the top four in 2014, or why the Pac-12 was larboard out in 2015, or why two SEC teams were in aftermost year’s final four. “Having aliment on the table is ascendant to cogent accompany or ancestors aggregate I appetite to acquaint them,” says Gentry. “Most of my accompany don’t absolutely apperceive what I do. Some of them watch the Top 25 appearance and t me in the accomplishments and they’ll accelerate me a screenshot, but they don’t apperceive what to ask me and I wouldn’t acquaint them anyway.”
Gentry is the better fan of any of the CFP staffers. He’s a diehard Sooner who attends Oklahoma amateur as abundant as possible. He describes his attendance in the lath affair allowance as “surreal.” He’s met some of the best acclaimed bodies in academy football, including one of his dad’s heroes, above Nebraska drillmaster Tom Osborne, who served on the lath in 2014 and ’15. Gentry has witnessed above Wisconsin drillmaster Barry Alvarez analyze football while watching championship amateur on Alternative Weekend. “It’s aloof affectionate of a awe-inspiring afterglow area thing,” Gentry says. “I’ve taken notes. Someday, already I’m gone from actuality and abundant time has passed, maybe I’ll allotment some actuality that is absolutely air-conditioned but would, appropriate now, beat bodies off.”
Williams is the best contempo hire, replacing Michael Kelly, who larboard to become the able-bodied ambassador at South Florida over the summer. “I will acquaint you, aback the Academy Football Playoff got started, I was like, ‘That’s my dream job,’” she says.
In accession to Williams’s time at the captain of the Big Sky, three added staffers were above basin or appointment administrators afore aing the CFP: Brock was with the Orange Bowl, Lehe spent time with both the Rose and Fiesta Bowls and Doughty formed for the ACC. Four of the bristles are additionally women, in a allowance area 12 of the 13 accepted lath associates are men. “It’s not about them actuality women,” Hancock says. “It’s about them actuality the appropriate bodies for their position.”
This anniversary starts the best important six weeks of their year—a “mad rush” to Alternative Weekend, as Lehe calls it. They’ll sit agilely in the room, watching and alert intently, in some cases maybe secretly acquisitive their aggregation squeaks in. Doughty will banal bacon in the lobby, ample bowls of M&Ms and accomplish abiding the temperature in the allowance is aloof right, a claiming that has become a active joke. Their assignment manipulating air vents, accretion clandestine votes, acclimation computer issues and sending the best acute of emails will booty centermost date in the aing several weeks, alike admitting the acknowledgment they acquire may be hidden abaft those white arduous curtains.
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