USC athletic director Pat Haden is sorry for leaving the press box to engage with game officials during the Trojans' 13-10 win over Stanford Saturday.
Coach Steve Sarkisian is sorry for requesting that he do so.
And the College Football Playoff, no doubt, is sorry to see its selection committee's integrity challenged in the aftermath of the most bizarre thing to happen thus far in a college football season that's just two weeks old. Haden is a member of the 13-member selection committee that will decide which four teams will be part of the inaugural College Football Playoff at the end of the season.
"I apologize to (Pac-12) commissioner (Larry) Scott, to the game officials, to Stanford and to the fans for any distraction I might have caused during Saturday's football game," Haden said in a release from the school. "In retrospect, I should not have approached the game officials. I should have waited until after the game and gone through the appropriate channels. In the best interests of our team and our coaches, I will stay off the sidelines for our next two games."
The Pac-12 Conference is reviewing the incident, according to the Los Angeles Times, and Haden will be absent from the USC sideline for the Trojans' upcoming contests against Boston College and Oregon State.
Selection committee rules mandate that members recuse themselves from deliberations about schools with which they have a tie. That means if USC is in the playoff conversation at the end of the season, Haden won't even be in the room when the committee turns its attention to the Trojans' resume. And did anyone really think being appointed to the committee would mean the end of its members' passion for their schools? Publicly or otherwise? That's not to say Haden's decision to come down from the press box was a good one.
As appearances go, it was less than ideal and gave rise to questions of committee bias. But Pat Haden is the same guy with the same passion for his school today as he was the day he was placed on the committee, and as the school's athletic director, transparent from the beginning. Just as it's transparent for every other committee member with a school tie of some kind -- of which there are many.
No amount of recusals will wash all bias from the committee's deliberations, because bias on some level is what opinions are made of. As long as humans are involved in the selections, so will their leanings. If the CFP selection committee proves to be a bad idea, it will be because it was ill-conceived from the day it was chartered.
Not because of Pat Haden.