Access to college football’s new four-team playoff is still to be officially determined, though a selection committee will almost certainly be asked to do the legwork in finalizing the “best four” each year.
The task is important yet unenviable, as the committee should and will be asked to explain their reasoning as to why Team X and/or Team Y was denied a chance to compete for a championship.
That transparency, both the good and the bad, is a vital part of why a selection committee was unofficially decided upon in the first place. Apparently, that clarity won’t be limited to the end of the year selection process. Via the South Bend Tribune, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick (pictured), a member of the 12-member BCS committee, said the selection committee’s reasoning will be made public as early as midseason beginning in 2014.
From the Tribune:
The most notable revelations from Swarbrick on Wednesday were the criteria ND must meet to qualify for consideration for the top-tier of bowls in years the Irish fall short of the Final Four, and that a selection committee will be charged with not only designating the four teams to play for the national title, but creating weekly standings of what it considers to be the top 20 teams from midseason on.
“We didn’t want the top four teams to just come out of the blue at the end of the season,” Swarbrick said.
You want transparency? You got transparency.
But there are some concerns, naturally.
The committee’s would-be decision to make their choices public before the end of the season is understandable, but ranking 20 teams seems a bit excessive. There are four teams that will be selected into a playoff field, and as the Tribune goes on to mention, spots 5-12 would be eligible for at-large openings in the six top-tier bowls (the selection committee will place those teams as well).
Why, then, would the committee not release only the top 12 spots and concentrate on fully explaining their reasoning behind those rankings? Transparency is important, but it’s more effective if it’s used for the teams that are relevant to the task at hand.
Secondly, the selection committee’s job will be to look at the entire body of work while putting an emphasis on strength of schedule and conference champions. Again, releasing weekly rankings isn’t a problem so long as it doesn’t interfere with that primary objective (though it would seem to render them essentially useless). One of the myriad issues with the BCS was that it punished teams not just for losing, but when they lost. A selection committee’s weekly rankings cannot emulate that pattern set forth by the BCS.
Strength of schedule; examining wins and losses; winning your conference… those are all more important factors in choosing four-team playoff than simply when a team loses.
Make no mistake: this isn’t an easy task and it’s not going to be without controversy. While I admire the reasoning behind weekly rankings, the selection committee cannot fall under similar habits of the system it was designed to replace.