Tom Osborne's initial reaction was hesitancy.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany called Osborne about two months ago wondering if he would be interested in serving on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Each Football Bowl Subdivision conference was invited to submit a list of as many as 15 potential candidates.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, eventually called Osborne to nail down his participation.

Osborne, after thinking for a couple of days, decided to be part of the 13-person panel that was announced formally Wednesday. The committee will select the four teams for the highly anticipated playoff set to begin next season.

"Somebody's got to do it," Osborne said. "And I like football. I watch it anyway. I thought I would go ahead and do it.

"I guess it's mainly just because I'm interested in trying to make sure that we do as good a job as we can. I feel like I can add something to it."

Osborne, who guided Nebraska to three national championships in his 25 seasons as head coach (1973-97), is part of a committee that includes former college football players and top-level university administrators, five current athletic directors, three former head coaches, a retired three-star general and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Osborne retired Jan. 2 as Nebraska athletic director. But he was putting in full days as athletic director emeritus until June 27.

So much for fading quietly into retirement.

Osborne, 76, played down the limelight aspect of his new task, though he did acknowledge the potential for roiling controversy.

"It hasn't been real difficult most years to figure out who's No. 1 and who's 2," he said. "They kind of separate themselves. But to separate Nos. 3 and 4 from 5, 6, 7 and 8 is going to be really difficult, because you're probably going to have a lot of one-loss teams that are fairly equal and fairly comparable.

"It's going to have to be a little arbitrary. We'll do the best job we can, I guess."

In addition to Osborne, former head coaches on the selection committee are Barry Alvarez and Tyrone Willingham.

"They've got a lot of really good people who have intelligence," Osborne said. "They're people who've made decisions, who have good judgment. But I think it's also important to have some people on there who know a little bit about a zone blitz and a short-side option, which I used to run all the time and everybody didn't like it."

According to a College Football Playoff news release, the top priority in selecting committee members was integrity. Among other "valued attributes" were football expertise, objectivity, ability to carefully evaluate and discern information, and experience making decisions under scrutiny.

Committee members are asked "to commit significant time to the endeavor."

That won't be a problem for Osborne, an aficionado of the college game. He said he watches games on Thursday nights, Friday nights and "four or five on Saturday."

"I drive my wife crazy because I flip back and forth," he said. "She doesn't like to watch football that way."

In addition to watching games on TV, he plans to watch video of games in the manner he did as a coach, studying all aspects of a team — from the kicking game to line play to the obvious aspects.

The plan is for committee members to be assigned to monitor a conference — generally not a conference in which the member was employed. Members directly associated with any team under consideration during the selection process will recuse themselves from any deliberations associated with that team and will not participate in any votes involving that team.

"If you're trying to cover 120 teams, that's going to be very difficult," Osborne said.

He understands the magnitude of the challenge — the inherent scrutiny, the amount of money on the line for programs, the pressure on the committee to get the right teams.

"It's kind of inviting a little bit of controversy," Osborne said. "And it will take some time. We'll see how it goes."

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.