How to Make a College Football Selection Committee Work

With a selection committee looking like the most probable method for selecting the playoff participants, it's time to discuss how to do it properly.

It's a bit more complicated than the matter of the basketball selection committee. As SI's Andy Staples pointed out on an episode of the Solid Verbal earlier this year, there's no time for shenanigans when making the basketball field of 68. It's just too big. With college football's field of four, there will be an abundance of time for politicking on various issues.

Here's where I'm at with the selection committee. Let me know if I've gone wrong with any of these points.

Don't announce that removing bias is a goal of the committee.

Everyone is biased in one way or another. Loyalty to favorite teams, home regions, friends who are coaching, and previous employers are the most obvious kinds of bias that could come up with the committee, but that's far from the extent of it. Some people implicitly favor offense over defense and vice versa. Some people out there consider spread option offenses to be gimmicks, whereas others believe them to be the cutting edge of football thought. Some people will discount an Air Raid team versus one built around running between the tackles. Some people will break ties in their mind by looking at individual positions (e.g. "I go with the team with the better quarterback") while others will focus on overall units (e.g. "I'll pick Team B over Team A because it has better special teams").

Fans are too savvy these days to believe that bias can be removed.

Balance the biases.

The only way to go is to make all the biases as obvious as possible and hopefully demonstrate that the makeup of the committee balances them all well. This is easier said than done, of course.

The way it's probably going to end up is with the individual conferences each nominating representatives. That's probably the best we're going to get. It won't balance all of the factors of bias I listed above, but it should hit all the major ones that most fans will care about. After all, picking a single person or committee to choose the selection committee only shifts the bias to another level. When it comes to bias, it's turtles all the way down.

No one who makes preseason predictions or who is connected to gambling can be on it.

This is one easy way to eliminate one kind of bias. Anyone who makes predictions will have an incentive to try to make them come true. If someone picks, say, Oklahoma to win the championship and the Sooners are right on the 4/5 edge, guess who they're going to back for the No. 4 spot? Sorry, Phil Steele, but you're out.

I also will include anyone from Vegas under this rule. It's a popular sentiment in some corners to say that only oddsmakers are truly unbiased because they will lose money if their ratings aren't accurate. That's only true to a degree, after all, because they set their lines not to be accurate but to get equal betting on both sides. Their inclination will not be to set the playoff field that best reflects who is Nos. 1-4, but rather which matchups they think they can make the most money off of. That factor can be reflected not only in who gets in the playoff but who gets sent where to play which team. That's no good.

Hire no one who currently has a job, and pay them all good salaries.

Administrators are busy, and coaches are even busier. Being on this committee should be a full time job because it's hard to keep track of 124 teams at once. This might trend the committee to the geriatric set made up of retired coaches and administrators, but much younger former players could do it too.

These committee members should be free to watch games every time they're on from Tuesday MACtion through the late Pac-12 game on Saturday night. During the day, they should be analyzing games that they didn't get to watch live. To make that possible, pay the committee members a good salary out of the pot of money. If we end up with 10 committee members and they get paid $100,000 for their troubles, that's a cost of $1 million. If TV is going to pony up $400 million per year as rumored, that's an expense of 0.25% of the payout to ensure the selection committee is immersed in the game as much as possible. That sounds like a good investment to me.

Game logs should be public.

Each committee member should have to keep a public log of which games they watch live and which they go over during the week. That way, we can make sure each person is watching both an adequate number of games and seeing all of the important teams enough times.

Give them as much data as possible.

The BCS computer polls won't be carried forward for two reasons. One is that five of six are closed, so there's no way to independently verify that their data is correct and their algorithms were run properly. The other is that they are required by rule to exclude margin of victory, and that makes them mathematically invalid.

That doesn't mean all statistical measures should be eliminated. Far from it. The committee members should get all manner of good, valid statistical measures. Give them Jeff Sagarin's ratings if he's willing to open up for a third party audit. Give them Bill Connelly's S&P+ ratings, or Brian Fremeau's FEI (again, if he agrees to a third-party audit). Heck, give them all nine of Phil Steele's power rankings if he's willing to provide them. The basketball committee uses various statistical rankings (yes the RPI is antiquated, but they have others too), so the football committee should have statistical rankings available as well.

Make it so the revolution is televised.

You know how ESPN likes to run things like bowling against NFL games on Sunday afternoons? Well, it should carve out an hour and run the Selection Committee Show. It should start about halfway through the season to prevent committee members from making public statements early on that they might feel the need to stick to or justify later on. That's along the same lines as banning preseason prediction makers.

The committee members don't all have to be on the show every week, but they should all rotate through about evenly. They can discuss where they're at and hopefully get grilled by someone like Rece Davis (as opposed to Lou Holtz or Mark May) about pressing issues and potential logic holes. The basketball committee has been opening up more and more lately, and it has helped people understand their selections better. There's no reason why the football committee can't be completely open so everyone can know where they're coming from.

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