As much as we debate the preferred size of the playoffs, it feels like we give somewhat short shrift to the process that actually determines which schools make the CFP field. A couple of recent pieces help make that point.
Mike Griffith talks to Roy Kramer about that. Here’s what Kramer says about the BCS, which he played a part in putting together.
Six years into the current College Football Playoff system a four-team selection criteria has proven vague and inconsistent, leaving questions and controversy brewing. Concerns are pointed at a 13-member panel that includes sitting athletic directors and a cloaked voting process.
Indeed, former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer said there’s a reason he believed cold, hard numbers should be more heavily relied upon than human opinions in determining national championship playoff qualifiers.
It’s why he designed the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) the way he did leading into its application prior to the 1998 season.
“We were concerned with regionalism and the emotion,” Kramer said, explaining why the BCS relied on a pre-determined formula of computer rankings and polls rather than the veiled committee approach used by the current College Football Playoff.
“It’s very difficult to totally separate yourself.”
You would think that the people who brought you the CFP, who had the sensitivity to take the Coaches Poll out of the equation, would have absorbed that lesson, but that there are ten out of thirteen members of the selection committee with conflicts would surely indicate otherwise. And there appears to be almost zero discussion about that.
How to inject more objectivity into a flawed subjective process? Well, one way would be to take an NFL-lite approach and convert the field made up exclusively of conference winners. The problem with that, of course, is that you’d have to do a serious remake of the P5 conferences to make the math work. I don’t think college football is ready to take the steps needed for that.
Which leaves us, perhaps ironically, looking back to the BCS, as Allen Kenney explains.
Of course, the BCS was not without its faults. The primary point of criticism centered around its hodgepodge formula. It tabulated rankings based on a mesh of opinion polls and proprietary computer ratings that infamously removed margin of victory from their algorithms at the direction of the BCS architects.
At the end of the regular season, the BCS spit out opaque numbers. Between a conglomeration of conflicted pollsters and dodgy analytics, the system as a whole lacked accountability for its results.
Both sources of discontent can be easily remedied. For starters, the public’s familiarity with quantitative computer models has grown significantly since the heyday of the BCS. The use of analytics has become ubiquitous across pro sports, and the media now relies more on advanced stats in sports analysis as a whole.
College football isn’t hurting for widely cited statistical tools. For example, Bill Connelly’s S&P+, Brian Fremeau’s FEI, and ESPN’s FPI have all been refined over time. Stat geeks have even come up with metrics such as Strength of Record, ESPN’s system for evaluating the quality of a team’s overall resume.
As such, we now have superior statistical rankings with more public credibility than predecessors such as the Colley Matrix and the Billingsley Report. Those in charge of administering the new BCS could license however many computer models they deemed necessary and make their formulas available as a boost to transparency.
Honestly, I’m surprised that Mickey hasn’t made a few suggestions about taking things in that direction, given that it controls two of those measures. (Hell, maybe it has, but is getting some resistance. Those selection committee perks are sweet, after all.)
Am I off base here, or do you share my concern about bias and conflicts? If you do, how would you reform the selection process?