Exploring the New College Football Playoff System

If you are like every other dedicated and long-time fan of college football, then there is little doubt that when you hear the words “College Football Playoff” together, it rattles your brain a bit. There is also little doubt that the new system that has been put into effect for its inaugural season will come under fire from fans across the country.

But by taking a closer look at the system that has been in the works for some time now, one can gain insight into the process and an understanding that it is really nothing to fear.

First off, the College Football Playoff website opens its page explaining the “Selection Committee Process” by saying that “ranking football teams is an art, not a science.” This is a subtle jab at those that cling to the various polls and systems which attempt to configure odds and determine a team’s trajectory, basing their determinations solely on past performance and the past performance of their challengers for the throne.

The new selection committee, which will be made up of 12 highly intelligent and fully engaged individuals of varied backgrounds, will put out weekly polls of the top 25 teams beginning this past week, October 27. They will evaluate teams based on criteria including “winning championships, strength of schedule and head to head competition when comparing teams with similar records and pedigree.”

This is a distinct advantage of the new system. Under the old BCS, there were totals of nearly 200 pollers with no telling what influenced their decision. The committee criticizes the old system saying that the polls “have not expressed the values the committee is interested in.”

Even further the committee says that “nuanced mathematical formulas ignore some teams who ‘deserve’ to be selected.” This is one argument that most fans at some point in their team’s history or even in another team’s history, could agree with.

The selection committee will be provided with a clear set of guidelines and is expected to take the facts of each case and specifically apply it to said guidelines. The committee will also be lead by a chairperson who’s responsibility is to explain the committee’s decisions to the public.

The committee members will make their decisions by voting. While it may sound simple, there is going to be a lot of work put into these decisions. The voting starts out with “seven rounds of ballots through which the committee members first will select a pool of teams to be considered, then will rank those teams.” It is the task of each committee member to individually evaluate the immense amount of information that is relative to the decision making process.

The committee process page indicates that “this evaluation will lead to individual qualitative and quantitative opinions that will inform each member’s votes.”

In addition the committee appointed two “point persons” per conference to make sure that the committee has access to all the relevant information and that each team is evaluated fully. This ensures that there is an effective and efficient channel to the committee, funneling them useful information. They are tasked to only gather information that is objective and factual.

This system has, of course, come under fire in its infancy. Many have said that a selection committee is like a jury and in order for juries to make the most effective decisions, they are not allowed to discuss the parameters of any specific case with anyone or they will be dismissed from that jury. While that idea may have merit, it is much harder to avoid bias or outside opinion in football than it is in a court case, though many players and teams alike have run into their fair share of skirmishes with the law so its nothing college football fans aren’t used to.

There is a lot that happens out on the field and that contributes to a team winning or losing. There are days when the underdog rallies an impressive amount of strength and topples a top five opponent. Does that mean the top five team should lose all hope of a championship because they had one bad game? *cough cough* LSU vs. Ole Miss, for example.

A 12-person selection committee brings together objective opinions to determine the teams that really deserve to go to a championship game in the most unbiased way possible. Given time, college football fans will begin to see the virtue of this system and the equality it brings to the NCAA.

*Section Photo credit to Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press; Featured Photo (above) credit to Rodger Mallison, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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