The College Football Playoff chairman hat fits more snugly for Rob Mullens these days.
Even if some disagreeable observers from various fan bases are judging what’s going on behind the brim.
“A lot of it is pretty personal. They don’t like my hairline,” Mullens, who was the guest speaker at the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Northwest Region meeting on Monday at The Register-Guard, said of the unsolicited feedback filling his inbox. “For me, I think it’s great for the sport there’s so much passion.
“Most of it is about their team and the one metric and how it should be weighted to help their team. Or something negative about the team that is ahead of them.”
Mullens, Oregon’s athletic director since 2010 and a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee since 2016, will serve his second and final season as chair in 2019.
In the five years since the advent of the four-team postseason format, the Ducks are the only Pac-12 team, and one of only five programs nationally, to win a College Football Playoff game.
Alabama (2015, 2017), Clemson (2016, 2018) and Ohio State (2014) are the three teams to win a national championship since the BCS was scrapped for a football final four.
The powerhouse trio has accounted for 86.7 percent of the possible College Football Playoff wins to date.
Georgia and Oregon, both 1-1 in the playoff, are tied for the fourth-most wins.
Oklahoma is 0-3 in national semifinal games. Florida State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Washington are each 0-1.
Mullens has a simple answer for how Pac-12 teams, including the Ducks, can be selected more consistently.
“Winning is what’s key,” Mullens said. “Strength of schedule matters. I do think having nine (conference) games is obviously a debate, whether it helps or hurts you. I think for us it creates an atmosphere in the West that we need. …
“If you’re the Pac-12 champion, the Rose Bowl is a pretty good experience, too.”
Putting on his athletic director hat, Mullens acknowledged that the growing revenue gap between the Pac-12 and the other Power Five conferences is a major issue.
The Pac-12 paid out $31.3 million to each member institution for the 2018 fiscal year, which lagged significantly behind the reported Big Ten ($54 million) and SEC ($44 million) payouts.
“What we’ve really focused on is making sure we’re as efficient as possible,” Mullens said. “You do need a certain level of resources to compete at the highest level. That’s important.”
Mullens remains hopeful that embattled Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s long-term strategy will eventually bear fruit when a new deal is negotiated in 2024.
Many cord-cutters are consuming live sporting events via Hulu, YouTubeTV, ESPN+ and other screaming services.
“If you look at where we were as a Pac-10/Pac-12 before the (current) TV deal, we really did close the gap. Now it has since been separated,” Mullens said of the changing landscape. “I do like our model, particularly if you look at what’s happening in the markets. …
“We own all of our rights in 2024, including the Pac-12 Network. No one else is in that position.”
In an effort to keep up financially with its Power Five peers over the next five years, the Pac-12 is exploring a private equity sale of 10 percent of the conference media rights for $500 million.
Mullens said he would need to see details of the deal before getting behind such a move.
“I think it’s a worthy process. It would have to be a strategic partner that could help us in the short term, obviously, but also provide some value as we go from (2024) and beyond,” Mullens said. “We would obviously like some additional resources for sure. But only if it made sense long term. I don’t want to sacrifice anything in the future because I do think we’re well positioned.
“I am concerned in the short term that we can remain as competitive as we are, from a broad-based standpoint, if we don’t figure out the resource issue.”
Second-year coach Mario Cristobal has a roster, led by senior quarterback Justin Herbert, and the schedule, beginning with a marquee matchup with Auburn in the opener, to help generate some extra revenue by contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Mullens certainly wouldn’t mind recusing himself from discussions about the Ducks.
Either way, Oregon’s athletic director expects to feel more at ease throwing on his selection committee chairman hat for those live ESPN interviews in the fall.
“At least maybe this year I’ll be a little more comfortable and can breathe,” Mullens said.