Coming out of playoff meetings this week, we now know what college football’s new postseason will be called — College Football Playoff, as it turns out — and where the major games will take place. That’s all well and good, but the biggest factor for CFP’s success over its 12-year agreement remains unclear:
Who is going to select the four teams to participate? And how?
CFP’s executive director, Bill Hancock, didn’t have much in the way of answers on Thursday. When asked how much time BCS commissioners spent discussing the selection committee this week, Hancock said “probably two or three hours.” As perspective, Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel remarks “This after spending nearly 20 hours in meeting rooms.”
Mandel goes on to write:
They don’t know what the size of the committee will be. The latest reported number was “14 to 20,” but that’s far from a guarantee. “I think there’s honest disagreement in the room,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said of the group’s talks.
They don’t know whether the committee members will be current administrators, ex-coaches and athletic directors, former media members or some combination of the above. They don’t know whether the group will be divided geographically, by conference affiliation or something else. They don’t know which sets of data the members will utilize, and they don’t know whether the committee will issue an official poll late in the season, a la the BCS standings.
Ten months into the playoff deal, it would appear that the same questions asked about the selection committee on Day 1 are still being asked today. “We have time on our side,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive has insisted. Be that as it may — the playoff doesn’t begin until after the 2014 season, giving decision-makers another year to figure out specifics — this isn’t exactly a textbook definition of progress on CFP’s most important, and undoubtedly controversial, area. Naming the postseason “College Football Playoff” may allow for future changes, but it means nothing if no one can decide who plays in it. And people won’t care which city hosts the championship game or which teams have “home field advantage” if they don’t understand how the four teams were selected.
Make no mistake: this is an enormously difficult task that demands time and attention to detail. As Mandel notes, there’s really no precedence for how to put together a selection committee outside of the one used to determine college basketball’s tournament field. Of course, the difference between choosing almost 40 at-large spots and four teams is beyond noticed. Still, a selection committee seems like the best option. If subjectivity in selecting teams is largely unavoidable, at least make it transparent. That was among the biggest, if not the biggest, gripe about the BCS.
Consequently, anyone serving on CFP’s selection committee is a brave soul who will no doubt be subject to an intense amount of criticism. Next to NCAA president, being a member of CFP’s selection committee might be the most thankless public job in college athletics. Some people in the game, like Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, have already admitted they want no part of it. At least the BCS didn’t have feelings, and if it did, we have bigger problems than who makes up a playoff field.
How the committee comes up with the four teams is equally important, yet just as unclear at the moment. Word out of Pasadena this week is that the committee would release its own poll a handful of times through the season and then make its decision following the end of the season. Would the top four teams in the final CFP poll be the four teams selected for the playoff? That seems like a logical conclusion, otherwise the rankings would seem arbitrary and pointless.
There’s a lot to figure out over the next year or so when it comes to a selection committee. Here’s hoping it goes better than the first 10 months.