Playoff selection committee: High on integrity, low on clarity (so far)

The selection committee is on the clock.

It has about nine months to clear up the process.

This isn’t it. Not yet.

The committee members are solid. That a faction of college football is complaining about the one-thirteenth -- 7.7 percent -- female component on the committee is silly. Time for Pat Dye to go play golf. While we’re at it, let’s add Debbie Yow and Sandy Barbour and make this thing a cool 15-member committee.

Unless there are securities fraud charges we don’t know about, these committee members do indeed fit the ‘integrity’ criteria. Committee chair Jeff Long is well-respected in the business. Thought committee could have used some younger NFL personnel/scouting types, maybe more of a youth presence (average age is 61), but overall they’ll be fine.

But the committee will be about presentation and analysis as much as breaking down cover-2 defenses.

That’s why it’s time to take the hands out of the dirt and place them in research.

The selection committee has been 18 months in the making and just today released the names, with the help of the entire composition leaking earlier this month.

The selection committee fact sheet says about the metrics for deciding this thing: “No one single metric will be identified as paramount over all other data.” That’s all it says. That either means the playoff folks don’t have criteria set or they don’t want to share it publicly.

Fans are too savvy now to accept that. Can't just roll the ball out and pick a few teams for a playoff with no questions asked. We know too much. There’s too much data available, too much exposure to teams every Saturday.

Long and the rest of the committee know this, of course.

There’s more work to be done, especially since the committee opted against a trial run in 2013.

The committee could use a strong statistical, research-rich component -- not to recreate a computer-heavy BCS, but to bring balance to the system. Bill Hancock references a “broad spectrum of data” to replace basketball’s version of the RPI. When asked for specifics on that matter, Hancock references rushing offense, total offense/defense, turnover margin, penalties and “just every statistic imagined that you can be a part of.”

That’s fine. But to get more details on that process before August would be helpful. Will the committee hire advanced statistics consulting? How will games be broken down and in what order?

The playoff is “committed to make this as transparent as possible,” Hancock says, and the committee will rank teams 1-25 when meeting at the College Football Playoff headquarters in Dallas about 4-5 times during the season. The members will work together to form one ranking.

Committee members say strength of schedule matters. What’s the scale to determine that strength?

There’s still so much we don’t know, which is what the coming months are for.

Some years will be clear-cut. But when the margin for selecting the 4 and 5 spots is thin, the committee must have a well-framed argument -- preferably with data to validate the decision -- polished and ready.

Total offense and penalty stats won’t get that done.

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