The NCAA changed the landscape of their postseason two years ago. After just two and a half seasons, I am here to tell you that they got it wrong. The committee is biased, the format is flawed, and the presentation disingenuous. It is the controversy that drives the ratings, but the NCAA better be careful of turning off too many fans with the current structure of the playoff.
The idea that thirteen people can sit down and chose the top four college football teams is absurd when you look at the people that were chosen for the committee. Many of these committee members are currently at schools that have interests in the teams that are in the playoff, and because of this the idea of a fair selection process goes right out of the window. Five of the members are current sitting athletic directors at schools. Week after week, the spokesperson of the committee comes to the podium to explain their thought process, which comes across as a lot of nonsense. While numbers don’t lie, people will interpret numbers in a twisted way to fit their agenda. The selection committee has no methodology. They pick the teams they want, and then formulate their criteria after the fact. The public is being played, as are the student athletes who think this is a fair system.
As the system is now, the committee chooses the top four teams, and they play off in typical bracket fashion. The inherent problem with this is that there are five major conferences. There is also a constant debate about whether or not the four final teams are supposed to be the best four teams, or the most deserving four teams. There is a way to satisfy both sides of this, but the current system does not. We learned in 2015 that Ohio State, at the four spot, was the best team in the playoff. However, what was it that really made them more deserving than a TCU or Baylor? In order to allow Ohio State in, the committee had to leave the Big 12 champion out of the playoff. The idea of a four-team playoff is inherently unfair because it rejects one of the major conference champions. There is a potential solution that will satisfy the most deserving crowd, along with the most talented crowd. The solution is an eight-team playoff. The reason the eight team playoff works is because it allows for automatic bids. In this scenario, all of the power five conferences (SEC, Big 10, Pac 12, ACC, Big 12) get to declare one champion. That one champion receives an automatic bid into the CFB playoff, and the other three teams will be chosen through a selection process. The current selection process is broken, as I explained earlier.
Right now, thirteen people have total control in who gets into the playoff. When a few people have too much power, bad decisions ensue. What needs to happen is a system similar to the Heisman trophy selection process. This means that people in sports media, old coaches, players and commissioners should submit their rankings. Not sitting athletic directors, like the committee is made up of now. A larger number of people will certainly promote more fairness in the system. The selection process should also weight the computer rankings to some extent, in order to eliminate some bias that may still exist.
The last problem that exists with the CFB playoff is the manner in which they present the rankings. It has become a reality TV show. Just like it wasn’t fair to the teams involved with LeBron during the decision, it isn’t fair to play with the fate of college kids for ratings. The committee is actually encouraged to be biased or controversial because it drives ratings. While I understand the argument that it is this publicity that makes college football as great as it is, a fair playoff system creates more excitement. The crowd that is obsessed with fairness will be pleased because it is simple: win your conference, and you’re in the playoff. The SEC fans who think that they should have four teams in the playoff every year, well they have the opportunity now. The small school who goes unbeaten, maybe the new committee will be willing to give them a chance because of more spots. Everyone is happy.
An eight-team playoff is ideal. There would be five automatic qualifiers with three at-large bids. The new selection committee made up of writers, old players, coaches and commissioners from around the country would vote on the rankings. Computers would also have some weight in this selection process. Lastly, there must be a release of the rankings that doesn’t seek conflict in hopes of creating better television. A normal release of the rankings on Monday morning will do.
Let’s hope the committee doesn’t make too many more mistakes before we adopt this new system.