Michigan's Warde Manuel named chair of CFP selection committee

After a tumultuous but successful season that culminated with a national championship, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has been named the chair of the College Football Playoff selection committee for the first season of the 12-team playoff, the CFP announced Thursday.

"We are delighted that Warde will serve as chair," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. "He has been a valuable member of the committee the last two years and that experience will serve him well in leading the group. As a former student-athlete, he will also be a good spokesperson to let fans know how the committee reached its rankings."

Manuel, a former defensive end at Michigan, will replace NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan, whose term has expired after serving as the group's chair for the past two seasons. The CFP also announced six new members to the 13-member group tasked with selecting the teams for the playoff, including former Minnesota Vikings great Randall McDaniel, one of the most decorated offensive linemen in NFL history.

Other new committee members include Washington State athletic director Pat Chun; former Toledo and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel; Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades; Virginia athletic director Carla Williams; and Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek.

The new members will begin their three-year terms this spring. They will replace Corrigan, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan, Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor, former Hall of Fame coach Joe Taylor and former Notre Dame linebacker and tight end Rod West, whose terms have expired. The CFP extended the term of former All-American Nebraska lineman Will Shields for an additional year.

In addition to running the weekly meetings this fall, Manuel's role as the committee chair places him in the kind of public role he has typically shied away from, as he is often reluctant to take the spotlight away from the coaches and athletes in his program.

Manuel has been unable to avoid the public eye recently, though, as his program was simultaneously the No. 1 team in the country and under two separate NCAA investigations, which are ongoing. He also just emerged from one of the most high-profile coaching searches in the country, as former coach Jim Harbaugh left to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.

Manuel promoted offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore to the head-coaching job, but the entire athletic department is still under the cloud of the NCAA's dueling investigations. The first is for alleged recruiting violations under Harbaugh during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period, and the second is for allegations of a widespread cheating scandal from prohibited off-campus scouting and sign stealing. The two have so far amounted to Harbaugh being suspended for half of the 2023 regular season.

As controversial as Michigan's season was last year, the unprecedented allegations against a CFP team with its leader on the committee didn't impact the group's discussions last fall. The CFP reiterated that as long as Michigan was eligible for the postseason, it was eligible to be ranked by the committee. Manuel missed only one CFP meeting last fall because of the sign-stealing scandal. Per CFP policy, he also recused himself from the room when voting and debates about Michigan took place.

As the committee chair, Manuel will be the sole voice in the group permitted to speak on the record about the committee's process during a season of enormous change. Unlike in the four-team playoff, which has existed for the past decade, the 12-team field will likely include the five highest-ranked conference champions and the next seven highest-ranked teams. The four highest-ranked conference champions will earn the top four seeds and a first-round bye. The seeding and final bracket could look different from the committee's ranking -- a new process of explanation for Manuel.

"My first two years on the committee have been a great experience," Manuel said in a statement. "I have so much respect for the time and effort each committee member puts in each week because of their commitment to the game. I'm honored to be asked to serve as committee chair."

Although the playoff field and format have changed, the selection committee's role has not. The new members will continue to use mostly the same protocol to determine their weekly top 25 ranking and ultimately the final teams on Selection Day. If there are any changes to the way the teams are selected, it will be determined at the CFP's annual spring meeting in April.

Incoming committee member Chun, who is entering his sixth year as athletic director at Washington State, is representing the remains of the Pac-12 and a school that has been part of the CFP's inability to formally approve a 5+7 model. Conferences take turns nominating committee members, and the dwindling league is down to Washington State and Oregon State after a mass exodus of conference realignment. Washington State president Kirk Schulz is on the CFP's board of managers, which consists of 11 presidents and chancellors who have the ultimate authority over the playoff. They need a unanimous vote to approve the 5+7 model, and although it is expected eventually, it hasn't happened yet because of the Pac-12's precarious position.

Before his arrival at Washington State, Chun spent 5½ years as athletic director at FAU and the previous 15 years at his alma mater, Ohio State. Chun, a native of Strongsville, Ohio, earned his bachelor's degree from Ohio State and a master's degree from Duquesne.

McDaniel was an All-American guard and four-year starter (1984-87) for Arizona State and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He was selected by the Vikings in the first round of the 1988 NFL draft and made an NFL-record 12 consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl at left guard. He is a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Although there are several former coaches and players in the group, seven sitting athletic directors representing seven conferences (including one from each Power 5 league) make up the majority. Williams is in her seventh year at Virginia but also has extensive experience as a former athlete. She was a three-year starter and All-SEC guard for the Georgia women's basketball team (1987-89). She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgia and a doctorate from Florida State.

Yurachek is in his seventh year at Arkansas and is also a member of the NCAA's football oversight committee, a role he has held since 2021 after serving on the football competition committee. Yurachek earned his bachelor's degree at Guilford College in 1990, where he was a four-year letter winner in basketball. He earned his master's degree in sports administration from Richmond in 1994.

Rhoades, who is entering his seventh year as Baylor's athletic director, graduated from Arizona and earned his master's degree from Indiana. He was previously athletic director at Missouri (2015-16), where fellow committee member Pinkel coached from 2001 to 2015. Pinkel has the most wins of any head coach in the history of both Toledo and Mizzou. Pinkel, who has since retired, was a tight end at Kent State. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2022.

The other returning committee members are former Nevada coach Chris Ault, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk, former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, Miami (Ohio) athletic director David Sayler, former sportswriter Kelly Whiteside, Manuel and Shields.