This week’s announcement by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany that he’s for a playoff involving “the top four teams” if those teams are chosen by a selection committee has set off an inevitable chain of reports on who should be on such a committee. People in the media are reaching out to their pals and contacts to see which ex-coaches would like to serve.
Ex-Florida State coach Bobby Bowden says he’d be “willing to serve” on such a panel. He added, “I think ex-coaches have a lot of wisdom. I watch the games. And I watch the game films on my iPad.” According to ESPN.com’s Joe Schad, Bowden isn’t alone:
“Former Texas A&M coach RC Slocum, former Ohio State coach John Cooper, former BYU coach LaVell Edwards and former Georgia coach Vince Dooley are all members of the College Football Hall of Fame and part of the Legends Poll. And they also would like to be part of the BCS committee.”
Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has reportedly told Nashville blogger/radio host Clay Travis that he’d be interested, too. (Apparently Travis couldn’t think of a way to get current Vanderbilt coach James Franklin on the committee.)
So is this the best route to go? Grabbing ex-coaches? Dooley thinks so. (And that’d be Vince, not son Derek who might also join him as an ex-coach if this year goes poorly at Tennessee.)
“I think the former coaches are the best choice for the committee because we have the time to study it,” Dooley told ESPN. “I’m not campaigning to be on any committee but I would definitely want to serve and help the system.”
Good thing he’s not campaigning.
“I respect the computers, but they have limits. As a retired coach, we have broader perspective,” Dooley said.
Actually every option has limits. Computers, polls and blue ribbon panels of ex-coaches. Think a selection committee is the best way to go? Then why all the complaining about the NCAA basketball and baseball tournament fields when they’re announced each year?
We hear of bias against leagues and coaches and schools. The seeds are wrong. The teams are wrong. Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas complain til their voices leave them every Selection Sunday.
As part of our 10-step plan for fixing college football, we at MrSEC.com put forth the idea of a three-pronged selection process. Each unit would get 1/3rd say in who makes the playoff field. All voters and votes and computer formulas would be completely transparent.
Fleshing the idea out a bit further, we believe the best bet for a selection process would look like this:
1. Human Poll — 50 voters strong. Ten voters would come from national television. No one watches as much film as the Gary Danielsons, Kirk Herbstreits and Todd Blackledges of the world. Conflicts of interest be darned, give guys like that a vote. Another 10 voters would come from the Football Writers Association of America. The most respected, lauded and awarded members would be offered spots in the voting booth first. That would leave 30 more voters — writers, talking heads, other media members — to be chosen from the different regions of the country (five from Pac-12 states, five from ACC states, five from SEC states, five from Big Ten states, five from Big 12 states, and five from states outside those leagues’ footprints). The first poll would not be released until October, so preseason polls would have less impact on a team’s ranking. “Body of work” would be a key point so the poll would theoretically be weighted in favor of teams playing tougher schedules. And all votes — every single week — would be made public.
2. Blue Ribbon Panel — Create a seven-person panel made up of ex-players, ex-coaches and ex-athletic directors. The SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten and ACC would all have at least one person with a tie to their leagues on the panel. The other two remaining members would have ties to smaller leagues, smaller schools or independents (like Notre Dame). When an ex-employer of the panel member is up for discussion, said panel member would exit the room. This panel of seven would be the “face” of the selection process. They would announce the teams selected and the seeds awarded on national television and all seven would be mic’d up and ready to take questions about their decisions immediately after the bracket’s big reveal.
3. Computer Formula — One computer formula should be used. That formula would be known by all before the start of each season. Strength of schedule would be an important component. So would margin of victory. Sorry, but if the world wants a big boy playoff, then it will need to play by big boy rules. And if that means some team gets an extra touchdown hung on it late in a blowout… too bad. If we’re judging teams, margin of victory has to be included in the mix.
As noted above, each of these three units would need to be given equal weight. But if some sort of tie remained in place after 99% of the votes had been tabulated, then the tie would go to the computer formula in order to take human biases out of the mix. (The likelihood of this ever happening would be quite small, obviously.)
Ex-coaches are certainly a natural starting point for any discussion of a selection committee. But they should not be the stopping point. To create as fair and as unbiased a system as possible, multiple means of grading teams must be employed. Those means must be totally transparent and accountable.
“Pick me!” No, thanks. Pick the plan above — or something close to it — instead.