College football committee poses new problems for post-season

For the first time in the history of college football, the 2014 season will end with a playoff selection committee deciding which four teams in the country are on top and deserve a shot at the national championship.  While a neat concept, I don’t believe it will provide a solution to the problems of college football’s past.

In the previous decade, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game was filled by two teams decided by a number of factors.  The Associated Press (AP) poll, Coaches Poll and BCS computer system all ranked teams based on wins and losses, preseason rankings, quality of wins and strength of schedule.

While the early years of the BCS proved to be successful, the latter half proved to be laced with issues, the biggest of which being undefeated teams being left out of the national championship picture. Now, that system has been replaced with a committee of 13 individuals who will ultimately decide the final four best teams in the nation.

This plan seems solid on the surface, but when we think about it and delve deeper into the potential scenarios, there are issues with this system.

First, in the old BCS system, oftentimes two or three teams would be left out of the big dance due to having a weaker strength of schedule or a worse loss, such as in 2007 when Louisiana State University made it into the national championship game over Georgia despite both teams being 10-2 at the end of the year.  One of the most memorable examples came in 2004 when undefeated Auburn was left out in favor of the University of Southern California (USC) and Oklahoma, both undefeated and ranked No. 1 and 2 respectively the entire season.  USC would go on to pummel Oklahoma 55-19 while Auburn beat its opponent in the BCS Sugar Bowl 16-13, making Auburn football fans wonder what might have been if their team only had a shot.

Now, instead of one or two teams being left out of the picture, we will have four, five or even six teams that will make a serious argument for being one of the top four. Teams rarely go undefeated, so teams with one or multiple losses will inevitably end up in the playoff talk.  With this past weekend of upsets, which included the fall of No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Oregon, there will be at least four or five teams jockeying for position at the end of the season.

Beyond the obvious issue of having more teams being potentially left out the opportunity for a shot at the national championship, we can look at the committee itself as a flaw in the design.  In the BCS era, team ranks were decided by a combination of poll rankings and computer generated rankings.  The inherent design of this system at least made sense in an objective sense, compared to a committee that will be making the decisions as to who gets in.

The issue I have with this committee is the people sitting on it.  Currently, the committee is made up of Jeff Long (chair), Barry Alvarez, Mike Gould, Pat Haden, Tom Jernstedt, Oliver Luck, Archie Manning, Tom Osborne, Dan Radakovich, Condoleezza Rice, Mike Tranghese, Steve Wieberg and Tyrone Willingham.

It is impossible for the people on this committee to be objective with their decisions as to who should be in the top four.  Jeff Long is the athletic director for the University of Arkansas. Barry Alvarez is the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin.  The same holds true for the remaining committee members with the exception of Condoleezza Rice, who frankly, I’m not sure why is on the committee, though I do appreciate the effort of bringing in eyes from an different (female) perspective.

I suppose the diversity of opinions within the committee will, in theory, offset the blazingly obvious biases that these individuals will have favoring their own teams/conferences, but I fail to see how that is an upgrade from an objective computer system.  Earlier this season, Pat Haden, member of the committee and athletic director for USC, was penalized for coming onto the field and yelling at referees during the football game, which illustrates the level of commitment these individuals have to their teams.

Ultimately, I suppose the college football playoff committee is a welcome change for those of us who enjoy college football. The former BCS system certainly had issues with teams being left out of the big picture in favor for household names with easy schedules and controversies involving losses, conference championships and coaches lobbying the system. However,  I still fail to see how the committee system is going to bring anything else but more lobbying by coaches, biased opinions and rabid fans screaming as to why their team didn’t get in the top four.

It will be interesting to watch down the stretch.  We’ve already had a number of top — five teams get knocked down in the rankings due to unexpected losses, and I doubt the current top — five consisting of teams like Auburn, Ole Miss and Notre Dame are going to remain unbeaten for the rest of the season.  If anything, I suppose the upside to this new system bringing more teams into the picture is that it gives college football fans like myself more things to complain about come the end of the season.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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