So far the College Football Playoff Committee has an A average, though given that one of its primary purposes was to provide an entertaining post season, scoring an A in entertainment value is a bit like padding your average with an A in gym class. As we move forward in the report card, we get into the meat of the process, and take a close look at some key areas. The committee's current report card is below, and next up we'll be discussing the often sought after but ever elusive quality of transparency.
When the committee process was first being proposed, there was a large discussion centered around the lack of transparency in the BCS model. The computer systems were difficult for many to understand, and in some cases the algorithms themselves were proprietary. In addition, the polls that made up the majority of the BCS equation were largely anonymous, save for the final voting of the Coaches' Poll in later years. The release of this final poll at the conclusion of the past few seasons demonstrated a clear bias in conference affiliation of the voting parties which made most question the poll's presence in the process. The committee, it was postulated, would offer far more transparency.
In the past two years, however, this assertion has not really held up. The committee, rather than given any real standard process, was simply mandated to pick the four best teams. "Best" was never truly defined, though we know that record, scheduling, conference championships and the ever ambiguous "eye test" all factor in one way or another. There exists a committee procedure to define how discussion and voting is carried out, but no straightforward definition on how teams will be evaluated. As a result, the committee enters a closed room, discusses, votes, and we are presented with the results. The process is as much of a black box as it ever was.
In a perfect world, the committee meetings would be televised and fully transparent. Fans could tune in to see how their team is regarded, whether it's that early season loss or the FCS team they scheduled that's holding them back and participate in instant feedback as the live twitter feed scrolls across the bottom of the screen - #WhosIn. The entire process could become a sport within a sport and give college football fans something to watch on Mondays and Tuesdays while the next big game approaches.
While it would be truly insightful and entertaining if the committee meetings could function this way, committee members would unfortunately, but rightly, need to fear reprisals from unruly individuals that take the seriousness of college football too far. Incidents like the fan poisoning Auburn's Toomer's Corner trees a few years ago could repeat themselves, and the aggression could be aimed directly towards committee members. Anonymity, while frustrating at times, does provide a level of safety for those participating, particularly when the group of members is relatively small.
In an attempt to meet us in the middle, the committee has put forth their chair person to answer a few questions whenever the rankings are released. While the difficulty in accurately representing the mindsets and thought process of a group of people and defending a joint result that may be contrary to your personal convictions can not be over stated, the benefit here has been minimal at best. With respect to former Chairperson Jeff Long for paving the way, his answers were often contradictory and smacked of coach speak. Nothing much was really being said in these interviews and substantive answers were difficult to grab a hold of.
Transparency is a tricky attribute to bring to this process, and so while the committee has been unable to adequately achieve it, the attempt at improvement seems to be there. New Chairperson Kirby Hocutt may prove to be a more effective ambassador, or the committee could begin releasing voting results of the process, perhaps a summary of totals per round without tying the votes to individual committee members. At the very least, publication of the metrics and data being used to make these decisions would allow a common starting point for the fans and media when evaluating the committee's rankings.
As the committee process moves forward, the emphasis on transparency will hopefully remain as strong as it was at the outset. If so, the well intentioned, but as yet unfruitful actions to make strides in this area should develop into meaningful results. Until then, we are left with a process that offers about the same level of transparency as the BCS system, better in some areas, but worse in others.