' Cinema Romantico: Casting Selection: The College Football Playoff Selection Committee Movie

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Casting Selection: The College Football Playoff Selection Committee Movie

I apologize straight away because this post is totally inside baseball – or, inside college football, I probably should say, since it revolves around America’s grandest game. And it revolves around America’s grandest game because last month when I was listening to my college football-centric podcast of choice, The Solid Verbal, co-host Ty Hildenbrandt, who had copped to watching the premiere of the Kiefer Sutherland show “Designated Survivor”, briefly imagined a scenario where Sutherland played a person who was part of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. The latter, for those who don’t know, or those who don’t care, or those who stopped reading a couple sentences ago, is a 12 person board comprised of people like current and former athletic directors and coaches and ex-Secretaries of State (see: Condi Rice) who gather beginning in early November to rank college football teams in a month long progression toward naming the four schools that will make up the end of season playoff.

Could Kiefer Sutherland fit into a make believe CFB Playoff Selection Committee? Sure. I could see it. But in seeing it, I began to see others. And as I began to see others, I began to see an entire cast taking shape in a middlebrow thriller directed by a journeyman - “Selection.” (The Playoff Is In Their Hands. Who They Got?)

Casting Selection: The College Football Playoff Selection Committee Movie

Sydney Pollack, Chair

The renowned Mr. Pollack, of course, sadly passed away in 2008. But, this movie is merely pretend, and in my movie there is no one more cut out to play the committee’s chair than Pollack. The chair, after all, is tasked with going out there every week and meeting with the media and answering questions and all I can think about is Pollack as grizzled lawyer Marty Bach in “Michael Clayton” fielding a phone call from a reporter he didn’t want talk to and answering in the most displeased deadpan I have ever heard in my life. “Here’s what I know. Your deadline was 20 minutes ago. So you’re fishing for a story or trying to get out of writing a retraction. In either case, I wish you the best of luck.” {Hangs up.} God Almighty, I want to hear him have that conversation with a pool of college football reporters. “Here’s what I know. Clemson’s a good football team. So you’re trying to bait me into criticizing the ACC or get out of having to write a vanilla column that won’t get clicks. In either case, I wish you the best of luck.”

Bruce McGill

Agreeably jovial yet nastily conniving, McGill’s Southeastern Conference Commissioner Fenton de Peret will work the room like the good ol’ boy he is, winning several to his way of thinking with the astonishingly high quality snake oil he sells and turning a few against him who struggle to stop him anyway because his nefarious dexterity is just that good.

Phil Reeves

Though Reeves has become lauded for his work in “Veep”, I often think of him as the Principal in “Election” where he exudes the air of a former P.E. Teacher who just sort of fell backwards into Principal. And I love thinking of him as a P.E.-ish conference commissioner who has spent a lifetime being out-maneuvered by De Peret and, sure enough, finds himself haplessly out-maneuvered again.

Bill Paxton

Texas Tech athletic director Bob Blevins IV shows up with a bloody mary in one hand and a briefcase full of cash in the other, only to be become chagrined and ornery when he realizes he cannot simply pay people off to get the playoff match-ups he wants.

Liev Schrieber

Melding the muted gruffness of his Marty Baron with the know-it-allness of his Carl Petrovich, Schrieber will play the prominent progressive strategist ex-Cal coach Bronson Honeycutt who can’t help but point out the flaws in everyone’s thinking.

Patrick St. Esprit 

This might sound odd, and given the film’s context I really hope it doesn’t come off the wrong way, but St. Esprit was so good and so authoritative and so fiery-voiced as a NORAD Major in “United 93” that I cannot stop picturing him as a crusty, conservative rust belt college football coach – call him, Jim Rybicki – so beholden to the notion of Playing The Right Way that he feuds with Honeycutt at every turn, convinced west coast football is a scam perpetrated by hippie elites.

Keith David

I love Keith David. I’ve always meant to write an ode to Keith David. One day, I will. And I love when Keith David gets irritated, and when Keith David gets irritated and wags finger, man, that’s just bonus points. And as two-time national championship winning coach Eddie Dent I imagine Keith David getting irritated and wagging his finger at both Honeycutt & Rybicki so they can see his two national championship rings.

Marcia Gay Harden

Fusing her folksy “Space Cowboys” brainiac Sara Holland with the immortal No Scrubs Dr. Diane Buckley of “Trophy Wife”, Gay Harden’s former University of Virginia Chancellor Dorothy Vanham navigates so much testosterone with sturdy elegance and the reveal that her thesis was on the Flexbone offense (she still has a fond place in her heart for the 1985 Air Force Falcons.)

Chris Parnell

I once saw someone compare Parnell’s unforgettably vacuous Dr. Leo Spaceman (pronounced “Spah-CHEM-in”) of “30 Rock” fame to former Louisiana State football coach and noted rabid eccentric Les Miles, and so what would be better than Parnell sort of fusing Spaceman with The Mad Hatter into a kind of gonzo ex-coach from Tennessee who won games and broke rules, though no one cared that he broke rules because he grilled hamburgers in the locker room and said things like “What you put in the fireplace, goes out the chimney.”

Treat Williams

As Griff Bowman, athletic director at Eastern Michigan, Williams’s character is the one in possession of a potentially game-changing secret.

Stephen Root

Root’s former ESPN commentator and College Gameday staple, Hank Blough, is referred to on social media as Captain Confused for his woefully inaccurate predictions, spectacularly incoherent analysis and three seasons as a head football coach at the University of Texas El Paso where he went 5-31. Captain Confused winds up on the committee when the committee is told by a few PR people that it needs to be more “media friendly”. Controversy erupts when a camera catches Captain Confused asleep at the conference table during one of the committee’s cram sessions.

Sam Elliott

In a crossover role, Elliott reprises his role as “Draft Day” Wisconsin Football Coach Moore who has retired. Like the infamous Jerome of “Summer School”, Coach Moore excuses himself during the committee’s first session to go to the bathroom and doesn’t return until a couple hours before the playoff itself is officially announced, issuing a few gruff pronouncements everyone cannot help but agree with, causing Bob Blevins IV to go bananas.

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