Ron DeSantis Assailed the Florida State Playoff Snub. Will He Do It at Alabama?

The Florida governor criticized the decision to keep the undefeated Seminoles out of the College Football Playoff in favor of the University of Alabama, where Wednesday’s debate is being held.

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Ron DeSantis Assailed the Florida State Playoff Snub. Will He Do It at Alabama? |

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has criticized the College Football Playoff selection committee for choosing Alabama over Florida State to compete for the national championship. On Wednesday night, he will be debating at the University of Alabama.

An undefeated college football team out of Tallahassee, nudged out of contention in a high-stakes competition by a dominant old favorite?

It makes sense that Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida might have taken the plight of the Florida State Seminoles a bit personally, and why, when he takes the stage at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for the Republican primary debate on Wednesday night, it may be especially hostile terrain.

On Sunday, the College Football Playoff selection committee picked the Alabama Crimson Tide — a perennially successful team with a 12-1 record — over the unbeaten Seminoles to round out the four-team bracket that will compete for the national championship.

The decision has not gone over well, prompting outrage (the Seminoles’ coach said he was “disgusted and infuriated”); existential doubt (what is an undefeated season even worth?); and conspiracy theories (including the notion that ESPN, which broadcasts the championship, and its parent company, Disney, tipped the scale against Mr. DeSantis for political retribution).

Mr. DeSantis went with outrage. On Sunday, he wrote on social media: “What we learned today is that you can go undefeated and win your conference championship game, but the College Football Playoff committee will ignore these results.”

On Tuesday, he said that he would ask for his proposed state budget to include $1 million for litigation expenses that might arise from what he called the College Football Playoff’s “really, really poor decision” to exclude Florida State.

It did not help that former President Donald J. Trump, in criticizing the decision, took yet another opportunity to troll Mr. DeSantis by suggesting that the fault might lie with him. “Florida State was treated very badly by the ‘Committee,’” Mr. Trump wrote Monday on Truth Social. “They become the first Power Five team to be left out of the College Football Playoffs. Really bad lobbying effort…Lets blame DeSanctimonious!!!”

What the selection committee did not say explicitly — but to which any Alabama students in the audience at the debate will doubtless attest — is that, on balance, it viewed Alabama as the better team: The Crimson Tide won a more challenging conference, and Florida State had lost its starting quarterback to a broken leg. (The selection committee’s rules do note that “unavailability of key players” can play into its decisions.)

Put simply, the Alabama debate is not going to be an ideal venue for Mr. DeSantis to air his grievances.

Fortunately for him, none of the other candidates have a particular claim to Tuscaloosa, or to teams that made the playoff. Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, went to the University of Delaware but is a longtime Notre Dame fan.

Vivek Ramaswamy, a Harvard graduate, is from Ohio. (Mr. DeSantis graduated from Yale, whose football team beat Harvard this year in the annual Harvard-Yale game, but didn’t find any bowl invitations in the mail.)

And Nikki Haley — the former governor of South Carolina and Mr. DeSantis’s principal rival in the Republican race to supplant Mr. Trump — graduated from Auburn, Alabama’s mortal rival.

Alabama’s celebrated head coach, Nick Saban — a longtime friend of Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, as it happens — does have a connection to Mr. DeSantis’s home state: He spent two unremarkable years as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins before leaving for Tuscaloosa in 2007.

Rebecca Davis O’Brien covers campaign finance and money in U.S. elections. She previously covered federal law enforcement, courts and criminal justice. More about Rebecca Davis O’Brien

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