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Post Overthinking a selection committee

Wednesday June 27, 2012

So we have a playoff now. Habemus certamen. There are a lot of details to be worked out, but one thing we know is that a selection committee will choose the four participants. This committee will determine the postseason fate of national title contenders, so it’s reasonable that there is no shortage of angst and questions about the structure and process of the committee.

I can’t get all that worked up about the mechanics of the selection process. There are ways in which a college football playoff will be unique relative to other college championships, but a selection committee isn’t breaking much new ground. There’s not much need to reinvent this wheel – for example, the “council of elders” idea bounced around a few weeks ago that had every retired or out-of-work coach short of Bobby Petrino angling for a role. There’s plenty of prior art covering the composition and process of a college championship selection committee.

Here’s the current men’s basketball selection committee. It’s about as interesting as khaki pants. Some names you recognize, some you don’t. You mostly have a mix of current and former athletic directors and conference commissioners. You don’t see Bobby Knight or Dickie V or Wimp Sanderson. Football needn’t be any more complicated, but the temptation to bring the selection process into the spotlight will be tremendous.

One difference that will become clear is that this is *not* an NCAA championship. The basketball selection committee features input from schools as disparate as LSU and UT-San Antonio. Football’s process will lean heavily on the major conferences (can we call them “BCS conferences” anymore?). There will be pressure for token representation from the rest of Division I that hasn’t scurried under the umbrella of a major conference.

What metrics should be used? Polls won’t go away. We’ll still be able to calculate the BCS rankings, but it would also be worthwhile to see the human polls removed from the process. There will be no shortage of people trying to give college football its RPI. Whether that’s something like the F/+ rankings or some other system, the committee will have plenty of data with which to make its call.

Whatever system is used, I’ll be satisfied as long as the committee shows its work. By that I mean something similar to what the basketball committee started doing this year: publishing the ranking system they came up with. They’ll also release official RPI and team reports throughout the upcoming season. Committee members or a spokesperson can expound on the process as they do each March, but that disclosure of the official rankings used to see the playoff should be the minimum amount of transparancy expected. I don’t need to see a member of the selection committee grilled on the 3rd quarter play they missed while in the bathroom at last week’s Southern Cal game.

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