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Let’s Stop Before We Start: Ex-Coaches Should Not Make Up The Playoff Selection Committee

The push has already begun.

Over the past month, several former college football coaches have said that they would like to take part in a new college football playoff selection committee.  Assuming the university bosses who sit on the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee will vote for the 4-team playoff plan that conference commissioners are sending them — either this Wednesday or later this summer — then the last thing anyone should want is a panel made up completely of ex-coaches picking the playoff teams.  Whether coaches campaign for inclusion or not.

Bobby Bowden was the first to OK the idea of serving on such an esteemed panel when contacted by ESPN.com back in early-June:

 

“I would be willing to serve on it.  I think ex-coaches have a lot of wisdom.  I watch the games.  And I watch the game films on my iPad.”

 

Several other ex-coaches have also made it known they’d be happy to take part in the committee: John Cooper, Vince Dooley, LaVell Edwards, Phillip Fulmer, RC Slocum, and Gene Stallings to name a few.

Cooper said:

 

“I would love to do this.  I would love to be a part of it.  My life revolves around college football and coaching.  I would vote for the best team, regardless of conference.  And I know we would operate that way.”

 

Sure they would.

Some of you might remember that MrSEC.com’s official suggestion was to put together a three-pronged system of selection with complete transparency that included media members, a single computer formula and a panel that included a few ex-players, ex-ADs and, yes, ex-coaches.  If the conference commissioners had pushed such a plan, no one group’s bias would have been able to sway the field entirely.  By using a selection committee only, however, one group will be given full power to shape the field each season.  And the last thing we need is an ex-coaches-only committee doing that job.

Everyone has biases.  And everyone who might be put on a blue-ribbon selection panel will have worked in college athletics so long that they will have certainly built up a list of friends, enemies, mentors and proteges.  But football coaches would have more tentacles stretching across college football than any other group of potential panelists.

Let’s take the well-respected, well-liked Bowden as an example.

Everyone associates Bowden with Florida State.  Having been ousted from FSU in favor of Jimbo Fisher, do you believe anyone in Tallahassee — including Fisher — would want Bowden to “impartially” decide whether or not the Seminoles are placed in or left out of a playoff?

Simple, you say, Bowden would recuse himself from the room when FSU came up as a candidate for discussion.

But Bowden was also head coach at West Virginia before moving to FSU.  Would have leave the room when the Mountaineers were discussed?

And what about the rivals of those two schools?  Think Florida or Pittsburgh fans would want to see Bowden weighing their schools’ playoff futures?

Let’s go back further.  Before transferring to Howard College in Birmingham, Bowden began his playing career on the University of Alabama’s football team as a freshman.  Couple that with the fact that Auburn fired his son Terry as head coach and you can assume Tiger fans might not trust Bowden anymore than Gator or Panther fans.

Now toss the Clemson Tigers into that mix, too.  Not only did Bowden coach against Clemson, but the Tigers — according to the elder-Bowden — fired his son Tommy as head coach.

You want to go further?  What if Bowden were asked to rule on Tennessee’s inclusion in or exclusion from a playoff?  New UT athletic director Dave Hart served as Bowden’s boss for 12 years as Florida State’s AD before he was forced out by then-school president TK Wetherell, the same man who gave Bowden the boot.  Might Bowden aid Hart’s school?  Or vote against it?  How would the Bowden-Hart relationship impact his votes?

So let’s say that due to all those types of connections, Bowden would be forced to leave the room when any ACC, SEC, or Big 12 team cam up for discussion.  Well, then what’s the point?  For Bowden to keep his eyes on the Pac-12 and the MAC?

And even if you go that far with Bowden — or any other coach — what about all of his former assistants and players who are now on coaching staffs that might be up for a playoff bid?  Do you know how big some coaching trees have grown?  How many friendships exist?  How many enemies have been made?

As noted above, coaches have more connections across college football than anyone else.  Sure, they know the game and as exes they would most definitely like some spotlight and power again… but no group has anywhere near the potential conflicts of interest as ex-coaches would.

Heck, need we even mention this quote from former Tulsa, Arizona State and Ohio State head coach Cooper from January:

 

“I’m told, I don’t know and I haven’t coached in that league, but I’m told that down south the Alabama’s and LSUs and some of these teams that have these great players, that maybe the NCAA needs to look into their situation.  Those teams have been on probation.  As you know, Alabama’s certainly one of the most penalized teams in college football, as is the Southeastern Conference.  We say the SEC’ the best and they are the best, but they’ve also had more NCAA violations than probably all the other leagues put together the last 10 years.”

 

Would a remark like that force Cooper out of the room whenever an SEC team came up for discussion?  (He’d already have to leave when Pac-12, Big Ten and Conference-USA teams were on the table.)

To make up for so many possible recusals, the new selection committee would have to be large.  Really large.  So at what point, then, are we just back to using a poll?

On the surface, no one knows college football better than ex-college football coaches.  If some could have been included as part of a much, much larger selection process, we’d be fine with including them.  But there’s also a greater potential for bias with that group than any other.  So using a panel of ex-coaches only should be a non-starter… even though lots of writers and bloggers have been pushing for just that.

For that reason — and since the conference commissioners seem to have already decided that a selection committee alone is the way to go — it’s probably best that the presidents create a committee much like the one they use to select the NCAA’s basketball tournament field each year.  That panel is made up of current ADs, commissioners and administrators.  They may have biases, too, and that’s why we’re against a panel-only move.  But they would have far fewer potential issues than ex-coaches would.

So let’s start the “just use ex-coaches” movement before it really picks up steam, shall we?

 


1 comments
Dash1Bravo
Dash1Bravo

Great use of Bowden as a test case for a voting member. I'm absolutely against the ex-coaches idea. Same for ex-presidents, ex-AD's, serving coaches, AD's, presidents, members of the boards of trustees, presidents of alumni associations, billionaires who own stadiums affected by play-offs, members of bowl committees, TV execs, sports writers, fans, ex-fans, and wives and husbands of all included in those categories. (Which means nobody I suppose. But since there has to be somebody, I'm waiting for the "trust but verify" provisions for the "committee)."

 

How in the heck are you going to find an unbiased, untarnished, and or completely devoid of human emotion group to be on this committee, whose voting is not going to be questioned? (and as a Gator and an SEC fan, no way do I want Bowden, and I would expect FSU fans to have a list of Gator coaches, players, et al  they don't want on their list also). Agree with the author, the basketball analogy is okay on its face, but the basketball community has been doing this for a long time, and they don't have bowl politics to complicate things (and as MrSec has pointed out many times, bowl politics complicates football considerations..... across the board). Bottom line, no matter what concept you use to find a national champion, it is going to be flawed, and this system won't survive its first season before the knives come out. Without a 16 team playoff, and a dramatic change to the bowl system, you're not even going to get close to a "good solution." 

 

I think the BCS system got us close. So lets see if this is really going to turn out to be a "no computers" just people system, or if the committee will have computer assist to help them out. That would make it better, not perfect. 

 

Oh well, may the best team win, and everybody else who's close can argue the point. (Just like it has been since college ball started).

 

 

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