Who ARE These College Football Playoff Committee People?

Mike Whitty Editorials

“How did they leave out an undefeated conference champion from the Playoff? And then they push out the two-time national champion (who has only one narrow defeat) from the Playoff entirely? How biased is this Playoff Selection Committee?”

I read the accusations about the integrity of the CFP Committee, and wonder whether their choices of playoff teams will negatively impact interest in the coming games. We need to examine closely those who comprise this College Football Playoff Selection Committee, and what they are charged to do. The mission of the College Football Playoff Committee is stated in one sentence:

The selection committee’s task will be to select the best teams, rank the teams for inclusion in the playoff and selected other bowl games and then assign the teams to sites.

The process the committee goes through is not nearly so simple as the stated mission. They follow a written protocol that is very specific about what they are to do, and when they do it. In my article recently, the focus was on the history of selection of the National Champion. Today I will write about the selection committee members and the written protocol document they follow.

The protocol establishes that people, rather than machines or polls, make the choices. It states: “As we expand from two teams to four teams, we want to establish a human selection committee that: (1) will be provided a clear set of guidelines; (2) will be expected to take the facts of each case and specifically apply the guidelines; and (3) will be led by a chair who will be expected to explain publicly the selection committee’s decisions.” 

Byron Marshall could do it all for Oregon, and returning to the ‘Natty is more difficult. (Photo by John Giustina)

Those “guidelines” are:
• Championships won
• Strength of schedule
• Head‐to‐head competition (if it occurred)
• Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
• Other relevant factors such as unavailability of key players and coaches that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance. *
*Note: After the original protocol was written and unanimously adopted by the 11 university presidents, 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletics director, a former selection committee added more details and specific operating procedures including this fifth additional guideline.

These five basic guidelines are qualified as follows:

“The criteria to be provided to the selection committee must be aligned with the ideals of the commissioners, presidents, athletic directors and coaches to honor regular season success while at the same time providing enough flexibility and discretion to select a non‐champion or independent under circumstances where that particular non‐champion or independent is unequivocally one of the four best teams in the country.”

The four-team playoff commenced in 2014, replacing the notably unpopular Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system of human polls and computer consensus that named two teams for a championship game.

Committee members serve for a term of three years, and the terms are staggered so that there always are experienced members. The 13-member committee for 2023 is:

The schools listed for committee members are from the list of each member’s stated conflict for recusal, or from their affiliation as former players or schools related to their current employment.

There are 13 members: eight current athletic directors including one who is a retired college head football coach, two other retired college head football coaches, two former college players, and one member of the media, who also is a college professor. The committee meets weekly in Dallas-Fort Worth during the last six weekends of the season.

When I read things written that impugn the integrity of the people on this committee it makes me want to retch. Before you write that they are biased or “on the take” from some conference, or network, read their resumes on the college football playoff website. You will be, as I am, extremely impressed with their backgrounds and qualifications to perform the service they provide to college football.

Committee members and some staff are appointed as “point persons” to the conferences. There are two for each conference, but not their own affiliate. The point persons act as liaisons between the conference, its member teams and the committee so that there will be an effective and efficient channel for communication. Their primary function is to gather facts for the committee, and present detailed information about the teams of each conference and also to provide information about independents.

We need to look at the entire process and those deciding before condemning the results. (Screenshot from ESPN Video)

These point persons are not advocates for their appointed conference, nor are they to speak on behalf of the conferences they are assigned. The committee holds three information-gathering teleconferences during the regular season: one before the first ranking, one before the fourth ranking and one the week before Selection Day. The purpose of these point persons is objective fact-gathering so that each committee member is informed about the status of every team in college football.

This year the committee chose the four playoff teams from four of the “Power 5” conferences. The final committee rankings of the top four teams are: No. 1, Michigan, from the B1G, No. 2, Washington, PAC-12, No. 3, Texas, Big 12, and No. 4, Alabama from the SEC. All four teams are their conference champion, meeting the first guideline listed above.

Florida State University, champion of the ACC, ranked No. 5 by the committee, was left out. Georgia, ranked No. 6 by the committee’s final ranking, loser to Alabama in the SEC championship game, and the season-long No. 1 ranked team in prior committee rankings was also left out of the playoff.

In my next article I will address why FSU and Georgia were left out, and argue my position supporting the choices made by the committee.

Mike Whitty
Eugene, Oregon
Top Screenshot from ESPN Video

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