Friday, June 29, 2012
How the selection committee should look
By Ted Miller
The answer is "No."
No, I don't want to be on the selection committee for the four-team college football playoff coming in 2014.
Not interested in the least. ESPN probably wouldn't let me anyway, but I'd rather gulp down a cockroach smoothie than be publicly announced as a member of the selection committee.
Know how folks across our fine college football land have cast aspersions of all colorful and creative types toward the li'l ole BCS? That's coming for the selection committee. Only it will be people getting excoriated, not a system of charts and numbers with no feelings to hurt. Or limbs to threaten.
But this declaration, you might have guessed, won't stop me from suggesting not only how the committee should be put together, but the extraordinary degree of transparency it must offer.
First, the committee.
The critical element is the avoidance of bias or perceived agenda. Many are suggesting the committee should simply mimic the NCAA basketball tournament committee, but I don't think it should. This is far more serious business, selecting just four teams, not 68. The annual whining that comes from hoops teams 69 and 70 is easily written off -- as in, "Hey, stop being so mediocre!" That won't be the case if 11-1 Oregon and 11-1 Alabama are the coin flip for the No. 4 spot.
To me, that means no member of the committee can be a former AQ conference coach, no member of the committee can be a current or former AQ conference athletic director, and no member can be a representative of the Fourth Estate -- that's the media, by the way.
That means you plumb the ranks of college sports administrators at lower levels -- FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA. You go for a wide and equally distributed regional cross section. You pay attention to where each member went to school. You try to avoid guys who graduated from Ohio State, Florida, USC, Texas, etc. The size of the committee should be as large as it can be but still be manageable. Ten to 20 folks seems about right.
You then supply it with every metric imaginable throughout the season. There should be weekly conference calls that focus the discussion on what teams have accomplished and what teams can do to move up. Attention must be paid to strength of schedule, with teams not only boosted for ambitious scheduling but also penalized for playing four directional schools.
This sort of statement needs to be made, if necessary: "It's great that Mississippi State has shocked everyone and won the SEC West. But its nonconference schedule means it can't be a final four team. This will be a hard lesson for the Bulldogs and, by extension, the SEC. But they surely will thank us for it later."
Word is the committee likely will publish a poll during the season. It should be wary of this. The effort behind a weekly top-20 ranking, even if it doesn't start until midseason, won't match the effort required to present a final four. What if the top four of the final poll is different than the ultimate final four? Not good.
A better idea would be to publish an alphabetical list of 10 teams in the running for the final four positions over the final two or three weeks of the season. That would feed the fires of interest while providing leeway for committee members who want to thoroughly review the totality of the season without getting tied into a ranking system that refers back to its previous iterations each week.
Finally, there needs to be unprecedented transparency.
What does that mean? It means each committee member's final four needs to be published. It means that every member of the committee must be made available to the media to defend his or her position. It means the criteria for distinction between a, for example, 12-0 No. 5 team and a 11-1 No. 4 team need to be made clear.
As a member of the media, it will be great fun to cover. We like whipping college football fan bases into froths of outrage or celebration.
But, again, no -- a thousand times no -- I don't want to be on the committee.