By Ben Morse, CNN
(CNN) — Sunday’s announcement of the four teams selected for the College Football Playoff sent shockwaves through the sport.
It wasn’t the four teams that were included which got people talking – the Michigan Wolverines, Washington Huskies, Texas Longhorns and Alabama Crimson Tide were chosen for the semifinal stage – but the one that was excluded.
The omission of the Florida State Seminoles was a huge bone of contention for many, in particular to those inside the program.
“For many of us, today’s decision by the committee has forever damaged the credibility of the institution that is the College Football Playoff,” said Florida State University (FSU) athletics director Michael Alford.
Here is everything you need to know about why FSU was excluded and why the decision has been seen to be so controversial.
Florida State enjoyed an excellent 2023 season.
The Seminoles went 13-0 for the third time in program history. Their last two wins, however, came without their star quarterback, Jordan Travis, who suffered a broken leg in FSU’s home game against North Alabama on November 18, ending his season.
Instead of folding, Florida State rallied, coming from behind on the road to defeat Florida in Gainesville with backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker. But Rodemaker, with a head injury, wasn’t available for Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference title game against Louisville.
In stepped third-string quarterback Brock Glenn, a freshman, who helped the Seminoles do enough to defeat the Cardinals 16-6.
They may have been undefeated, but in the eyes of the members of the College Football Playoff committee, that wasn’t enough to sway them to include the Seminoles, instead selecting Alabama. With the selection, the Crimson Tide will make its eighth appearance in the College Football Playoff, the most of any team.
The Seminoles are the first undefeated team from a major Power-5 conference to be excluded from the playoffs since its inception in 2014.
Speaking on ESPN on Sunday, College Football Playoff committee chair Boo Corrigan explained why FSU was left out of the top four.
“Florida State is a different team than they were through the first 11 weeks,” said Corrigan. “An incredible season. But as you look at who they are as a team, right now, without Jordan Travis, without the offensive dynamic that he brings to it, they are a different team.”
According to the College Football Playoff selection committee protocol guidelines, the decision is made based upon a series of factors, one of which includes “unavailability of key players.”
The College Football Playoff field is selected by a 13-member selection committee rather than by a simple win-loss record in part because teams play such different schedules.
The committee, made up of athletic directors and former coaches and players, ranks the teams based on their play on the field and considers conference championships, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and comparative outcomes of common opponents.
‘The committee failed college football today’
Florida State, as the No. 5 seed, will face the two-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl on December 30.
CNN contributor Cari Champion said she believes Alabama’s inclusion over Florida State was a decision based on TV ratings.
“I will be honest with you, that committee of people who sat in a room in Grapevine, Texas decide ratings matter most,” Champion told CNN This Morning’s Poppy Harlow and Phil Mattingly on Monday.
“This is not so much about the most deserving team, they felt that without Jordan (Travis), they weren’t going to be able to look as good on television, wouldn’t be able to have that many ratings.
“I honestly believe that is why they picked Alabama. Alabama is a powerhouse. The SEC – the conference in which they are in – is arguably the best that there is in college football, so is Nick Saban in terms of a coach.
“I felt that if there was a coach that perhaps wasn’t as decorated, they wouldn’t have made it in. Alabama absolutely is the better team … but the reality is that this isn’t fair. They were robbed in plain sight and if I was coach [Mike] Norvell, I’d be disgusted as well.”
CNN has reached out to the College Football Playoff for comment.
The decision divided opinion though, with some arguing that Alabama is the team currently best positioned to challenge for a national championship title, not FSU. USA Today columnist Dan Wolken pointed out that “the Crimson Tide’s third-best win, against LSU, matched Florida State’s best win of the season.”
“For the College Football Playoff selection committee, there was no right answer,” added Wolken. “There was no wrong answer, either. But there was a safe answer. And that safe answer was Alabama.
“In choosing the one-loss Crimson Tide over the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles, the College Football Playoff put together a set of semifinal matchups that have the potential to deliver the most thrilling New Year’s Day in the history of the sport. Alabama versus Michigan is a dream matchup.
“The committee had to go with the team that it felt was better-equipped to compete in the playoff and had a better season overall. Despite having one loss, that was fairly clearly Alabama.”
‘Failed college football’
Beginning in the 2024 season, the College Football Playoff is expanding from four teams to 12, which will go some ways to hopefully avoiding such controversies.
The decision to omit Florida State – on an 18-game win streak – was met with fierce criticism, especially from inside the program.
Travis himself posted on X, formerly Twitter, his disappointment in the decision, writing: “Devastated. heartbroken. In so much disbelief rn, I wish my leg broke earlier in the season so y’all could see this team is much more than the quarterback. I thought results matter. 13-0 and this roster matches up across any team in those top 4 rankings. I am so sorry.”
Alford said that the playoff selection committee had “failed college football.”
“The argument of whether a team is the ‘most deserving OR best’ is a false equivalence. It renders the season up to yesterday irrelevant and significantly damages the legitimacy of the College Football Playoff. The 2023 Florida State Seminoles are the epitome of a total TEAM,” said Alford in a statement.
“To eliminate them from a chance to compete for a national championship is an unwarranted injustice that shows complete disregard and disrespect for their performance and accomplishments. It is unforgiveable.
“The fact that this team has continued to close out victories in dominant fashion facing our current quarterback situation should have ENHANCED our case to get a playoff berth EARNED on the field.
“Instead, the committee decided to elevate themselves and ‘make history’ today by departing from what makes this sport great by excluding an undefeated Power 5 conference champion for the first time since the advent of the BCS/CFP era that began 25 years ago.
“This ridiculous decision is a departure from the competitive expectations that have stood the test of time in college football.”
Norvell echoed Alford’s sentiment, saying he was “disgusted and infuriated with the committee’s decision today to have what was earned on the field taken away because a small group of people decided they knew better than the results of the games.”
“What is the point of playing games? Do you tell players it is okay to quit if someone goes down? Do you not play a senior on Senior Day for fear of injury? Where is the motivation to schedule challenging nonconference games?”
Even Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford said he felt sympathy for Florida State.
“Just like us, they put in the same amount of work in the offseason,” Ford said. “They fought just as hard throughout the season. They’re still players. They’ve still got a program. It’s just a tough situation to be in.”
In the semifinal games set for January 1, No. 1 Michigan (13-0) will play No. 4 Alabama (12-1) at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, while No. 2 Washington (13-0) will take on No. 3 Texas (12-1) at the Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.