College Football Playoff Selection Committee Must Be Seen as Credible

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The College Football Playoff doesn't have to be as hated as the BCS was, but that's not out of the realm of possibility.

Dear Jeff Long,

We had an interaction on Twitter last night, and I feel like we got off to a bad start. It began when I posted something I didn't intend to be taken seriously:

You understandably took offense because you don't know me and couldn't have known it was facetious because Twitter still doesn't have a sarcasm font. I attempted to explain the grain of truth I saw behind the humor, but the medium is bad for nuance. If you will indulge me a few minutes of your time, here's what I was trying to get at.

I have been a supporter of a playoff format for college football as long as I can remember. I hope the College Football Playoff works well not just because I love the sport but because I really like the idea of a playoff.

The BCS was reviled in large part because no one trusted the selection process. Nearly annual formula tweaks in the early years made it seem like the organizers didn't know what they were doing, and even stabilizing the formula didn't help. The Coaches Poll was a natural (and rightful) target for accusations of bias. Few understood what the Harris Poll even was, and the details often weren't pretty. A certain class of fans was never going to trust the computer polls, but even experts in the field didn't like them.

If the College Football Playoff is to thrive and actually be liked, the selection process must have credibility. For that, perception is just as important if not more so than actual fact.

I know that as chair of the committee, you don't have any special powers in the selection process. I know you can't force the other members to accept an outcome that you desire but that they don't (and I know you're a professional who wouldn't even try). A lot of fans will not specifically know that, though, and they will assume that your title of "chair" means you do have extra authority. There probably will be some controversy come selection time, and if it's resolved in favor of an SEC team, accusations of bias will come.

Some fans are so partisan towards their schools and conferences that nothing can be done to sway them. They're not worth worrying about. However, there are some in the sports media who will be looking to play up any possible hint of bias because that's what they do. They might not even believe it themselves, but it doesn't matter. Stirring the pot brings eyeballs, and eyeballs bring ad revenue.

I have no doubt that I will be defending you and your committee against accusations of bias on multiple occasions this fall, but I largely don't matter. Those other guys do, and including "#SEC SECSECSECSEC!!!" in a tweet, even if it's about baseball and not football, will only give them fodder to paint you as a crazed SEC partisan. If enough fans believe them, and sadly some will, it undermine the playoff system and lead it down the road of hatred that the BCS found itself on.

If you're inclined to take the advice of some guy on the Internet you don't know, try to be mindful of this situation from now until you're off the committee. If you're going to be rooting for your friend, just say that. When push comes to shove this fall, anything you have said can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. The public opinion of the committee members, and especially you as the chair, will by extension either help or hurt the credibility of the entire playoff system.

If this sounds silly, well, it is. Maybe I'm ultimately worrying too much, but as you know, the passions and emotions that college football evoke aren't known for their reasonableness.

Best,

David

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