craig-james

Meeting of the Minds: Who should be on the playoff selection committee?

Beano Cook

Beano Cook would've been a shoe-in for the selection committee – RIP.

OK, so we know what the new college football playoff is going to be called. (Do we have to capitalize that from now on?) We know what its logo might look like. We know where it will be held. We know who's going to televise it.

The only thing we don't really know is who will get the honor of disappointing the public – and potentially incurring the next Harvey Updyke's wrath – with their selections for the participants.

It sounds as though the people in charge have narrowed it down to two potential approaches. One way would be to turn the selections over to a panel of experts, such as former players and coaches. Another route would be leaving the picks in the hands of current administrators, such as conference commissioners and athletic directors, much like the process for March Madness.

Which approach do you favor? Does it really matter?

Ty Hildenbrandt: I'm skeptical of both approaches, but it's important to note that there will be no silver bullet here. Just like in the early days of the BCS – and the late days, who am I kidding? – there will be flaws.

Personally, I tend to favor the "March Madness" approach over the panel of so-called experts. At least there is a rough template for the process with which teams are picked for the NCAA Tournament. There's no need to re-invent the wheel here. Use basketball's process as a starting point and evolve from there.

Allen Kenney: You're right, Ty – there are going to be flaws no matter what. I do think there is a good lesson to be learned from the BCS process, though: Accountability is important.

The BCS relied on faceless computers and hundreds of voters with no real vested interest in seeing that the final product was a success. The people who created the playoff should take ownership of the final outcome.

There should be one representative with one vote from each conference on the committee. That would lessen the chances that any one particular set of interests runs roughshod over the process and prevent the power brokers from passing the buck.

Barry Alvarez

"I nominate me."

Kevin McGuire: I would prefer to keep this out of the hands of conference commissioners if at all possible. The last thing I think an unbiased selection committee, if one were to exist, needs is a huffy conference commissioner stumping hard for a school from his own conference. But as Ty pointed out, there is no perfect process, and we knew that going in.

I suppose of the two options that appear to be at hand I would favor a selection committee consisting of "experts," but how many experts are we putting in the room to make these decisions? But I digress…

Andy Coppens: For me the question isn't so much who makes up the panel as what criteria are being used. If we end up with a system that looks anything close to the BCS as it stands today, then we are all screwed. Until the system being used comes out, I'd rather reserve judgement about who will be doing the selecting and how they can select teams.

But, if I must choose… I'm with Kevin on this one, because I don't trust commissioners who gave us the awful BCS system to give us (as fans and writers) a fair system now. I think a mix of administrators and ex-coaches is the way to go. It's as close to perfect as I could think of at this point in time.

John Walters: I think most of us on this thread secretly harbor the same thought: It should be me. (And I don't mean me, John Walters – I mean that we all think we'd do a better job than any committee.)

Michael Felder: Give me the coaches and players. We're talking about four teams being picked here, not 64 or 68 teams. Teams 69-72 might be irate that they don't make the field, but it doesn't move the meter nearly as much as teams five or six missing out on their shot to play in the semifinals.

In other words, the margin for error with such a small field is greater. In that vein, you need people with experience and comprehension of the game picking these teams. If your college administrator or conference commissioner doesn't know the difference between a mid-line zone-read and a wide-zone read he's not qualified to make that call. Especially on a 12- or 13-game sample size, as opposed to college basketball's 30-some contests.

There's a lot at stake here, and I'd prefer people who know the game beyond just some stats be the ones making the call.

John Walters: On the surface that makes sense, Mike. Now how do you account for bias?

Michael Felder: Versus bias of the conference personnel?

I'll take coaches and players who know what they're looking at when the films on – and their biases – over people who don't know enough about football to fill a thimble and their biases.

Andy Coppens: I think if you come up with a set of criteria they have to consider you, make bias less of a factor on the whole. That's where things are right with the NCAA Tournament selection committee in my book. Humans will always have bias, no matter who it is – it's part of human nature. But with the correct guidelines for selection in place, I think it's fair to say bias would be lessened in this case.

It's an interesting argument that Michael makes about players and coaches knowing more, although you could also make the argument that they take too much of the micro-view of things – that they don't see the bigger picture sometimes, too. Could coaches biases come into play in how they see the "right way" to play the game of football and thus leave out a deserving team? Yes.

Same goes for administrators, who, let's face it, aren't exactly adept at running their own ships to begin with. The problem ultimately lies in finding a balance between the computers and the humans. If you mix both elements in the selection process. it's the only way to check one from taking over the other. I'm not talking about computer polls and human polls. I'm talking about the eye test that coaches can use and some formula like the RPI that would make things easier for all to consider.

Allen Kenney: I don't think anyone would dispute that former players and coaches know the intricacies of the game far better than the suits. That said, I don't think we can jump to the conclusion that their selections would be "better" than those of the administrators.

Like Andy mentioned, the criteria given for picking the teams should ultimately be what the results are measured against. Never thought I'd associate college athletics administrators with integrity, but I do trust them more to pay greater mind to their objectives and maintaining the integrity of the process.

Again, an athletic director or conference commissioner has more incentives to see that this works than, say, Craig James or Ty Willingham. With the administrators, there's no passing the buck in the event of mischief.

Dave Singleton: Given that we are talking about a human element here, bias is inherently built into said systems. The tournament in March proves that year after year after year. It is challenging to try and slap an objective face on a subjective activity.

With that being said, I would rather have a selection committee made up of former coaches and former players over conference commissioners. I actually favor this for the Men's Basketball Tournament as well, but that's not happening.

In some respects, I favor it for some of the reasons that Michael mentioned; people who played the game would have a better idea of what to look for when trying to choose the four best teams in the country. With a decidedly small sample size and a greater imbalance between the levels of competition than you find in basketball, I think people who have a deeper knowledge of the game on an X-and-O level would make better choices to provide us with the best three-game series possible.

Not saying that there wouldn't necessarily be bias, but I would hope that former coaches and players, being outside of the active politics of the administrative side of the sport, could at least make a better attempt at serving the greater good than the active administrators have already demonstrated.

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