Talk of a college football selection committee coming full circle?
The good news? It sounds like we*re very close to finally getting an actual college football playoff. The not-so-good news? The selection process that is bound to be involved to determine the final four teams involved is going to be messy.
Hopefully, though, we'll get some level of progress on this front too. After all, when you really examine the old BCS formula that thing was a farce. Start with the Coaches Poll that figured into it significantly. College coaches don’t have the time to get involved in watching other teams they aren’t playing. The not-so-well-kept secret is their football ops guy or their sports information director fill out their ballots, just as former Alabama coach Gene Stallings admitted Wednesday morning he had his do when he was “involved” in the Coaches Poll. On top of all that, their livelihood is so dependent on the outcome of the poll. It’s ridiculous to have them involved in this.
The Harris Poll, in theory, makes some sense because you have people who have been a part of the college athletics world, but you have to hope all of these people take the Poll seriously enough to watch all the games, and you also hope that there is the level of transparency there that coaxes pollsters away from their known ties and connections to certain programs or coaches. (NOTE: We’ll give people the benefit of the doubt here and call them "connections" rather than biases or allegiances.) But many of the responses from the Harris Poll at the end of the year have been laughable too.
Years ago I made the case that the Vegas oddsmakers would probably be the best fit in determining the rankings. Not that I ever thought it would actually happen, but within the context of it, there is relevant point: In theory, the oddsmakers get you the strongest or best teams, but do they actually get you the “most deserving” teams? Those terms don’t always go hand-in-hand. And narrowing down that criteria needs to be key in this process too.
As the discussion about the viability of a selection committee being involved has heated up in recent weeks, it reminded me of a conversation I had with Mike Tranghese back in December of 2008. At the time he was the out-going Big East commissioner and a guy who knew the inner workings of the BCS and the NCAA basketball tournament better than anyone. He was the ideal person to ask about the viability of a college football selection committee to aid a playoff. He explained that the idea had actually been brought up five or six years earlier (in 2002 or 2003, but the feeling was the pressure that this would place on the football committee was just too great. "It had very little support," he told me.
The challenge with the basketball selection process is for seeding but it's who is No. 65 or No. 66, Tranghese said. Not who is No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. Also, with basketball you have 30 to 35 games to use to differentiate the worth of teams, not just 12 or even 13. Tranghese also pointed out that football teams stay "insulated" since most don't engage in tough out-of-conference road games. That makes the selection process tougher, but the real sticking pointing, he said, was the burden of it all.
"It's just a very different argument," Tranghese explained. "The feeling was the pressure and the amount of scrutiny that committee would face would be overwhelming. Times have made it so difficult. Who else do we get to do it?"
Well, times and the level of scrutiny are significantly more amped up now. Twitter didn’t exist in the early 2000s. Social media has a wider, brighter and much hotter spotlight. Things are a lot thornier. I suspect you’ll still find plenty of people who are willing to take on that burden. Qualified people? Yeah, hopefully.
We’ll see. You simply can’t get people who don’t have any real knowledge that come without some level of connections. And the reality is you’re never going to please everybody. My hope for this is that there is such a level of transparency that it keeps people on their toes.
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