Commentary

Selection committee sparks concerns

Originally Published: June 11, 2012
By Chris Low | ESPN.com

Retired coaches -- those who retired on their own accord and others who were forced into it -- are coming out of the woodwork, wanting to get back into college football.

Bowden
Brian Schneider/US PresswireIf there's a dadgum selection committee, count former FSU coach Bobby Bowden in.

No, they're not lobbying to coach again. They're offering to serve on a proposed selection committee and pick the four teams that would vie for the national championship in the inevitable playoff that will come in 2014.

As much as I respect some of the former coaches who've thrown their hats into the ring, I can see it now:

Bobby Bowden is sitting there and trying to decide between Florida and Florida State, or maybe even South Carolina, where his old pal, Steve Spurrier, is now coaching. Of course, given the way Bowden was unceremoniously pushed out at Florida State after dedicating his life to that university, who knows what might be going through his mind come selection time?

Think the Alabama fans would be giddy about Phillip Fulmer holding the Crimson Tide's playoff fate in his hands? Back in the day, Fulmer did a little investigative work that didn't exactly endear him to Tide Nation.

And hasn't John Cooper already gone on record as saying that some of the teams in the SEC, namely Alabama, Auburn and LSU, are essentially cheating their way to national championships and should be investigated by the NCAA? I'm sure Cooper's 2-14 record against SEC teams during his career at Ohio State had nothing to do with his using such a broad brush to paint the SEC as a pack of cheaters.

Plus, the last time I checked, it's the Buckeyes who won't be going to a bowl game in 2012 thanks to NCAA sanctions.

I agree that Hall of Fame coaches certainly know what they're talking about when it comes to evaluating football teams. But that's not the rub regarding this whole selection committee nonsense.

The rub is that it's not realistic to expect former coaches, current coaches, former players, current athletic directors, former athletic directors or current conference commissioners to completely set aside their biases in picking four teams to play for the national title.

It doesn't mean they're not honorable men, and it doesn't mean they don't have the best interests of college football at heart.

What it means is that they're human, and with so much at stake, it would be foolish to allow those with a dog in the hunt to be the ones who are settling on the four top dogs in the race.

Yes, I'm well aware that a selection committee picks the field for the NCAA college basketball tournament each year. But you're talking 37 at-large teams -- not four.

But there should be more to the process -- more checks and balances -- than one group of college football officials getting together and selecting the four teams it deems worthy. The problems with a selection committee are inherent:

How many people will be on this committee? Furthermore, it wouldn't make much sense to have commissioners from the power conferences on the panel, not to mention athletic directors from the top schools, if those people will recuse themselves (similar to what they do in basketball) every time one of their teams is up for discussion.

If that's the case, athletic directors and commissioners from those conferences who rarely have schools in contention will make the call more times than not.

[+] EnlargeDelany
Jerry Lai/US PresswireIt's clear that Jim Delany and the Big Ten are making studying concussions a major priority.

Something says that will go over just swell in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., Norman, Okla., Eugene, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio.

There undoubtedly needs to be a human element to the whole playoff equation. That's where the polls come in, and perhaps ex-coaches are the answer over and above current coaches, especially when you go back and look at some of the coaches'/sports information directors' ballots in the USA Today Coaches Poll over the years.

But, hey, there were a few head-scratchers in the Harris Poll (which includes a number of former coaches and players on its panel) last year, too.

So here are my suggestions: Keep the two polls as part of the process. Keep the computer rankings, too, but make the formulas for those rankings more transparent.

The big change that needs to be made to the BCS standings formula is putting the strength-of-schedule component back into the equation, which would force teams to play more challenging nonconference schedules.

Granted, a lot of these nonconference matchups are set well in advance, but the playoff wouldn't begin until the 2014 season.

With added weight given to schedule strength, we'd get to see more games in the mold of Alabama-Michigan, Georgia-Boise State, LSU-Oregon and Florida State-Oklahoma.

When the BCS standings debuted in 1998, strength of schedule composed 25 percent of the formula. There was also a "quality win" bonus awarded for victories over top-15 teams. But by 2004, both of those components were eliminated, and the BCS standings were whittled down to three components -- the two human polls and the average of the computer rankings.

A revamped BCS standings formula would be the best and fairest way to go.

Someone will inevitably point out that Stanford would have made a playoff ahead of Oregon last season based on the final BCS standings, even though Oregon beat Stanford by three touchdowns during the regular season and won the Pac-12 championship.

The way to get around a scenario like that is to write a provision into the BCS standings that prevents a conference champion from being displaced by a team from its league that it beat during the regular season.

A lot of this gets back to common sense, and I think we all know that there's no perfect way to select the teams.

Whether it's a selection committee or a new-and-improved BCS standings formula, there always will be teams that think they're getting hosed.

But if we go with selection committee, just wait until it gets out that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is down on any team that doesn't win its division … like, say, defending national champion Alabama.

Actually, it already did get out.

Remember Delany's "I don't have a lot of regard for that team" comment last month?

Delany never specifically mentioned Alabama, but he didn't have to.

Alabama coach Nick Saban fired back during the SEC spring meetings earlier this month by suggesting that "self-absorbed people who are worried about how it affects their circumstance or their league" are ruining it for the fans.

I say we play football and not politics, because we're surely going to get a heavy dose of politics if we place the selection process for a playoff solely into the hands of a committee.

Congress might have an easier time balancing the budget.

Chris Low | email

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