First College Football Playoff Committee Reveals Flawed Process

By Ty Duffy
Dec 8, 2014, 8:42 PM EST
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College football’s first playoff selection has concluded. As many anticipated, the process was imperfect. The beauty of the BCS formula was its sheer mumbo jumboness. Fusing a number of stupid methods for choosing two teams absolved any particular one of blame. Replacing that with one stupid method to choose four teams offered one, convenient target.

Here are the major issues that arose, or were visible beforehand and confirmed.

No Conclusive Value: Like the BCS, the committee makes a decision. The process adds no weight to the outcome. It works only when there is no decision to be made. The committee was born to avoid making a decision about how to choose four teams. Faced with its first true decision, TCU or Baylor, the committee punted. It could offer no solution.

No Mandate: What was the committee looking for? The four best teams at the end of the season? The four most deserving teams? The committee’s mandate was never made explicit. It changed week to week each time Jeff Long graced us with an explanation. Competition? Beauty Pageant? Consortium to produce TV ratings? College Football!

Pointless Busy Work: The committee engaged in a protracted deliberative process, to build a considered consensus as the season progressed. Then, at the decisive moment, the committee discarded accrued logic and fell hard for recency bias with Ohio State, the very thing it was designed to avoid. The committee might as well have met over beers on the final weekend and held their fingers to the prevailing wind.

Steps to fix the committee? We would move to an eight-team playoff five automatic bids for conference champions, relocating as much of the decision-making process from discussion to the field as possible. Presuming that won’t get organized for next year, get rid of the weekly rankings and the rankings altogether. Just slot teams at the end. The labor-intensive method isn’t helping matters. Trust us, the playoff discussion will be self-sustaining.

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