As we've been grading the college football committee's performance over the past two years, it seems they've been listening. Bill Hancock recently announced that the semi-final games this season will remain on New Year's Eve, but be pushed back the start times such that the latest game kicks off at 7pm on the East Coast. Even if the game hits overtime and extends to four hours, as we hope it does, that still leaves an hour upon completion to flip over and watch the ball drop. Extra credit to the committee has been awarded and their Entertainment Value has been bumped up to an A+. The committee's current report card is below, and next up we'll be discussing the members of the committee themselves.
The selection committee is currently composed of thirteen members, all with a variety of backgrounds and diverse regional affiliations. This was a purposeful response to the criticism of bias and ineffectiveness of both the Coaches Poll and Harris Poll in the former BCS system. A small group of dedicated individuals who are required to recuse themselves when discussing teams they have direct ties to is a vast improvement over an anonymous poll of clearly biased coaches who most admit did not even fill out the ballots themselves.
The credentials to be a member of this committee, however, seem to be somewhat nebulous.
While the majority of the committee members are some combination of coaches and former athletes, there are three members that have never been on the collegiate football field as a competitor in either of these regards. Rob Mullens, Condoleeza Rice and Steve Wieberg all have undeniably excellent administrative or journalistic qualifications with regard to college football, but not one of them has ever competed in the sport.
The goal to seek out a variety of backgrounds is laudable, but the mix of approaches used by the committee is questionable. In large groups, such as the Harris Poll, which surveyed over 100 panelists nominated by the individual conferences, the goal was to achieve a statistical representation of the college football landscape, and so it was made up of a mix of former players, administrators, and journalists. The idea being there was enough variety of viewpoints that the teams chosen by a majority vote would be the correct ones. With only thirteen members, however, this distribution is impossible, and the weight of an individual vote is incredibly significant. With such a small group, the committee should be focused on finding undeniable experts, not a variety of viewpoints.
While this lack of direct experience may not seem a problem for some fans, it sets a dangerous precedent. If the committee is simply going to be made up of a handful of people that could have participated in the BCS era polls, how is it a better representation than those polls? The objective of the committee was to put the power in a select few people who were so overwhelmingly knowledgeable and insightful in the realm of college football that no one could question their judgment. But if the selection committee is made up of members of the media and administrators that have the same variety of opinions as the fans themselves, they lose the credibility necessary to give credence to their rankings.
While the majority of the committee members have outstanding credentials as well as actual college football experience, it is troubling to see the trend of more and more members who, while knowledgeable, are no more directly experienced with the sport than the most avid fans.
The three current members I've identified have absolutely been around the sport and spent a great deal of time and energy analyzing teams, styles and metrics. They know a great deal about college football and have both a national viewpoint as well as a deep understanding of certain teams. They also have analytical backgrounds and have proven themselves trustworthy, responsible and of sound judgment in a variety of important positions. But the problem is, so have I, and so have many other fans across the country. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that anyone that has coached or played at the collegiate level has a leg up on us in understanding the sport.
The committee should absolutely make efforts to improve the level of experience of their experts by making coaching or playing college football a requirement to serving on the selection committee. With so few members, every vote is critical, and it is essential that every vote is cast by members with as much experience as possible. If the committee is unwilling to make this level of experience mandatory, then I don't see much improvement over the previous BCS poll system. I would, however, like to know how to submit my resume...
Committee Members: C-