More post-BCS fun and games

Just a couple of random tidbits to show how serious football’s custodians are about taking the postseason to the next level.

First, don’t let anybody tell you differently.  Shreveport is in the running to host a national semi-final game!

The group overseeing the new college football playoff announced today it has invited 31 bowl committees to consider whether they are interested in submitting a proposal to host the national semifinals and other bowl games to be played New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

The Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl have already been chosen to host the first national semifinals of the playoff on January 1, 2015. The Orange Bowl and a yet-to-be named bowl will host the semifinals in the second year of the playoff. The two bowls that will host semifinals in the third year have yet to be named. Bids are being sought for the three to-be-named bowls.

“This is about giving as many fans as possible the opportunity to enjoy the new playoff and the other bowls in person,” said Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the BCS and the future playoff. “A rotating event means more fans in more places will be able to experience the excitement of the new playoff. Because of the criteria, we don’t expect every bowl to proceed with a bid, but we want to extend an offer to all that are part of the college football bowl tradition.”

Damn, I wish some billionaire with more money than sense would back a play for Shreveport to be a host, just to watch Hancock weasel out of it.  (Shoot, there’s got to be more bang for the buck in that than there was in all those RomneyPACs last fall.  Combined.)  Somebody help a third-tier bowl out.

Of course, we all know the reality here.

Time waster.

Next, Stewart Mandel organizes a brief symposium on the role statistical analysis should play in assembling the semi-finals field (the teams, not Shreveport).  It’s well-meaning, but… well, let’s put it this way.  Here’s whom Mandel elicited for opinions:

• Bill Connelly, author of SB Nation’s Football Study Hall and Football Outsiders’ S&P efficiency ratings

• Ed Feng, publisher of ThePowerRank.com and Sports Illustrated contributor

• Brian Fremeau, author of BCFToys.com and Football Outsiders’ FEI efficiency ratings

• Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com bracketologist and former publisher of CollegeBCS.com and CollegeRPI.com

• Ken Pomeroy, publisher of the KenPom.com basketball efficiency ratings

And here’s whom Hancock says they’re looking for:

1. People connected with each conference, but not necessarily current staff members — more likely retired ADs or coaches.

2. One or two former media members who covered college football.

3. “Nationally known and respected football people who know the game and made their name in college football.” Former players might fit this bill.

Yeah, those two groups have so much in common.  If you put them in the form of a Venn diagram, you’d wind up with a couple of circles that didn’t overlap, with a line drawn between them labeled “Bill Hancock”.

Hint:  If you just described all the playoff trappings as the most conservative way to generate the most money, it would save us all a lot of effort, Bill.

**************************************************************************************

UPDATEMichael Elkon writes something that went through my head when I composed this post earlier.

Thankfully, we are coming to the end of the BCS era. The decisions that were previously made by suspect pollsters and denuded computer programs will now be named by an as-yet unnamed roster of committee members. College football’s innumeracy will no longer be written into the rules. Instead, we will just have to hope that the individuals tasked with selecting four teams will do a better job of utilizing mathematically sound reasoning. It would be something new for college football to go down that path. (Bill Hancock’s comments on the composition of the committee are not confidence-inspiring.)

Baseball has made major strides and yet even now, we are far more likely to see batting average on the screen when a batter comes to the plate as opposed to on-base percentage. How long are we going to have to wait for college football to make similar progress and where will that progress be reflected? In baseball, the use of outdated numbers does not affect the competition. Because of the subjectivity inherent in picking teams to play for the national title, it potentially matters when ESPN uses bad numbers to analyze teams and then Hancock’s “retired ADs and coaches” form their beliefs based on those numbers.

Baseball is much, much farther along in its usage of advanced stats than college football – yet even there, as Michael notes, there’s still plenty of resistance masked as adherence to traditional (read:  less accurate) measures.  It’s not rational to think that college football is ready to go to a place that even baseball hasn’t fully embraced.  Sadly, that’s the case even though more is at stake.

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23 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

23 responses to “More post-BCS fun and games

  1. Gravidy

    I’m always a sucker for a Venn diagram joke.

    • Dog in Fla

      Who isn’t? Bill H. derived his three-step equation on the way to work one morning from traffic light variables rather than relying on Stewart’s short symposium of those possessed with witch-like Silveresque powers of statistical analysis from geeks and nerds* in the coven like Bill C.

      http://xkcd.com/1116/

      * http://xkcd.com/747/

      • Gravidy

        I’ve always considered myself more of a geek than nerd, fwiw. Maybe if there had been a series of movies called Revenge of the Geeks, I would feel differently…

  2. Cojones

    When trying to explain to my wife where the chickens have been disappearing I use Venn diagrams to explain to the ‘Nesian how her chickens are grouped into free-range and pen-kept for differing parts of the day. When the gate is open some nesting hens don’t leave because they are setting eggs; whereas, some don’t return to the pen at sundown. For the latter there is a third overlapping circle labeled “Owlshit”.

    She understands perfectly.

    • uglydawg

      Some don’t come back to the pen because they are setting on eggs laid somewhere outside the pen…so add a circle…and especially if they are Game Hens or mixed with Games. They can show up weeks later, dragging their bitties behind them. Obvious football analogy here.

      • BMan

        There’s a “getting laid on Spring Break” joke in there somewhere.

      • Cojones

        Ug, you are obviously familiar with the chicken saga in certain households. The Amnesian has one hen with a bitty now and can’t let it into the big chicken coop because it could be pecked to death. Keeping it alive during the day (hawks, eagles) is frought with chickens running to and fro whenever a shadow crosses from above. Same occurs when domestic cats come around. At night they are subject to predation from owls, raccoons and other night hunters. Early morning brings no relief since that’s when the fox may show up. She’s teaching the small one to fly up to roost in the carport opening (away from the cars) to the attic(same place 4-5 other chickens roost) in order to save it’s life. Getting the babies through this period does mimic SB and our sturm and drang with players.

        Back to the thread: Elkins is my kinda guy with his ruminations of the “Hick Pics” and how that may affect selection of teams. His thoughts on ESPN pundit executing fallacious rankings falls right into my line of thinking and is one of the reasons I believe the selection of 8 teams for a playoff partially neutralizes their affect.

        • Always Someone Else's Fault

          Costs of solution (8) outweigh the costs of the problem (4)

          • uglydawg

            Well, at the risk of having the Senator kick both of us off of the blog for turning it into a poultry journal, I’ll add this and let it be…(and I swear I am not a Clemson or South Carolina spy)….I once had a possum get into the chicken house and eat a hen’s bitty (analogy..Saban recruiting in S. Ga). My old dog made short work of the possum, but I was left with a hen that squaked all night and into the next day (some of us after the bowl loss to UCF). I got a brainstorm and went to the feed store and got a “replacement” chick..(juco transfer). I took the chick home and put it with the still grieving hen and within ten minutes she had it under her wing and was as content as ever (some of us after Providence sent us Gurley).
            So when a hen loses a bitty (it happens) go get her a new one and she’ll be fine….One more thing…and this one is true and you can attatch a huge Gamecock meaning to it….Game Hens (yes..the female version of the USC mascot) will hide their nests wherever they can. Several hens will use the same nest, and when it’s time to sit on it, whichever hen is sitting will become the mother of all the little chicks. I have had game hens dissappear for weeks and show back up with a dozen little ones following her around. Analogical possibilities abound! (Maybe this would be better suited to a South Carolina blog).
            No more for me. We have a Kroger near enough to buy eggs and they’re pretty cheap.
            Sorry Senator, but I did try to squeeze a little bit of football out of it all.

  3. While those 3 seem the strongest possible, I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston (Reliant Stadium) tries to get in there, and a midwestern city gets Big 10 support like Detroit with Ford Field, Indianapolis and Lucas Oil, or St Louis and their Dome.

  4. Pingback: What college football’s playoff should learn from March Madness | Breaking News Pinboard

  5. BMan

    So they won’t be having a semi-final game outside in the Midwest or Northeast somewhere? What will Delaney and the Liars and Ledgers folks say about that?

  6. Update response: Elkon’s comments about using better numbers makes sense if we’re talking Heisman, Doak Walker, and other awards, but not a National Championship foursome. Maybe once the tournament reaches 64, we’ll need better math to figure who is and isn’t worthy. But at 4 teams, the only stats in play are wins and losses. First, use all undefeateds. Then come major conference 1 loss teams. And if you don’t have 4 by then, it’ll be a beauty contest among the 2 loss contenders. But if anyone thinks some advanced metrics, rather than the eye test, will determine which 1 loss teams make it and which ones don’t, is fooling themselves.

    • I don’t think advanced stats are being offered as a substitute for records. I think they’re being offered as a better way of understanding wins and losses than what the committee is likely to rely upon.

      • Gotcha. I’ve just never seen stats (aside from W-L) involved in the discussion. Even back to the bowls and polls days pre-BCS, even pre-Rose included BCS, it’s always been records and if records can’t differentiate teams, then the eye test.

        • Except for the computer formulas, of course.

          • Cojones

            And the new stats coming into play for analyzing team players and plays.Grouping the stats such that team strength results are better understood will be a mainstay of playoff selection and fans’s understanding of where their team resides in the hierarchy. The “new configuration” stats can also be used for determining player individual strengths for individual awards.

            • But if some 2 loss SEC (or non-SEC) team has better stats and advanced stats than some 1 loss or undefeated Big 10/Notre Dame/Big 12/ACC team, does anyone think the numbers will put the team with more losses in the 4some instead?

  7. Always Someone Else's Fault

    Selection Sunday is the poster child for “data driven” fig leafs for decisions driven by emotions or politics.

    For example: Bobinski defended Middle Tennessee State by noting that they “won tough games, especially away from home.” Really? They won 1 game against an RPI Top 100 team all year: Ole Miss, at home, by 3. They did play Florida and Belmont away – got drilled by an average of 20. Meanwhile, Virginia beat 8 Top 100 teams, including Wisconsin at Wisconsin. By the stated criteria, Virginia would have been the choice.

    I am not slamming the committee for picking MTSU over Virginia. I am slamming the committee for pretending that they don’t have a very non-data-driven tie-breaker when choosing team A or team B: small school wins.

    A CFB playoff selection committee will do the same thing: grasp at numbers to defend decisions made by politics or emotions.

    • That’s why the settling it on the field crowd is bound to be disappointed by the new, improved postseason. And there’s only one way to fix that: more cowbell playoffs!

      • Cojones

        I’ll just settle for the first one in CFB, whenever that happens.

      • Everyone, certainly every hoops fan, understands that the way access to the tournament is determined is far from perfect. It is, on the other hand, vastly better than the absolute black box that has been the BCS.

        Basketball has a committee. They meet in secret, everyone has an agenda, it’s far from perfect. You can’t take the politics out of politics, etc. On the other hand, there is some form of accountability. The members of the committee are known; they have to sign their work. The head of the committee has to go on the selection show and defend the result, get yelled at by Billy Packer for letting in too many of those damn mid-majors, as used to be the tradition.

        And they do things like take members of the media through a war game version of the selection process. That may be something of a dog-and-pony show, but I have never seen non-hackish members of the media attack it as grossly unrepresentative of the actual selection process.

        Basketball also uses metrics, traditionally and officially RPI, the OPS of roundball and now the more advanced outsider systems such as BPI, Ken Pom’s etc are becoming more relevant. Again, they aren’t perfect, but the committee takes RPI seriously and it shapes the selection process in an objective, neutral way.

        Any movement in that direction from football would be welcome. Is the committee as currently described a clown show? Ex-players — rilly? Well, at least it’s out there, it’s already being mocked and there is the potential for change.

        Is it unclear what role statistical analysis will play? Well, at least the rats nest of pseudo-metrics that was the BCS “computers” — as in “You nerds like computers and numbers, huh? Well, here’s some damn computers for you. Now shut the hell up” — has been swept away. And again, whether and how statistics are being used will be a legitimate subject of informed debate, not a mystery like the papal conclave.

        It still sucks, but it’s getting to be more like basketball. It’s getting better. Even a little sunlight is a pretty decent disinfectant.

        • Always Someone Else's Fault

          How is the current BCS selection a black box? The final key votes are known, aren’t they? Computer rankings are for the most part transparent, aren’t they? Now – these can be silly and stupid, but they are transparently silly and stupid.

          What goes on in the committee room? We have no idea. We take their word for it. The committee chair has no idea why Middle Tennessee State got in (his stated rationale does not fit MTSU’s resume) but hey – he took questions and gave answers, even if those answers don’t add up. And is he accountable for that? Nope. He wasn’t even cross-examined.

          Far as I can tell, the NCAA’s politics on basketball revenue distribution and handing out tournament invitations are just as byzantine and ridiculous as all the other aspects of the NCAA we like to mock. I really do not understand why the NCAA gets a pass on basketball.