There are 13 people that decide which teams go not only to the College Football Playoff, but also the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl games. So how do they get the job??
Well, they get nominated by people already on the committee! Unlike the NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Committee, which has 12 members that are all athletic directors or conference commissioners, the CFP Committee brings in 13 people but only eight are college sports administrators.
This is to give some level of “transparency” to the process, but those eight (all current athletic directors) are incentivized to do what is best for the industry. And while it’s certainly better than having no folks outside the Church of NACDA, them having the majority is still enough to make sure the money is indeed protected.
If this was a truly impartial process, getting all administrators out and allowing only those that follow college football without a financial interest in the health of the industry (media members, quants, etc) would probably be the way do it. But of course there’s billions of dollars involved, so let’s move on because that’s never happening.
2022 College Football Playoff Selection Committee
Mitch Barnhart: Athletic Director, Kentucky
Tom Burman: Athletic Director, Wyoming
Boo Corrigan: Athletic Director, NC State
Rick George: Athletic Director, Colorado
Chet Gladchuk: : Athletic Director, Navy
Jim Grobe: Former head coach at Ohio, Wake Forest, and Baylor
Warde Manuel: Athletic Director, Michigan
Will Shields: 1992 Outland Trophy Winner, College Football Hall of Fame member
Gene Taylor: Athletic Director, Kansas State
Joe Taylor: Athletic Director, Virginia Union (Division II)
John Urschel: 2013 Sullivan Award Winner at Penn State, MIT PhD in mathematics
Rod West: President of Entergy Corporation, Notre Dame player, Tulane Law
Kelly Whiteside: Professor, Montclair State University, former USA Today CFB writer
There’s a stated process the committee follows, but here’s the gist in the “Principles” section:
The committee will select the teams using a process that distinguishes among otherwise comparable teams by considering:
Conference championships won,
Strength of schedule,
Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incentivizing margin of victory), and,
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.
But part of the “Voting Process” section is where it gets dicey. Because here’s the last line after describing how teams will be evaluated:
This evaluation will lead to individual qualitative and quantitative opinions that will inform each member’s votes.
So if a voter doesn’t like the numbers, they can still go by what your eyes tell them (or the fact that Alabama sells a lot more tickets than TCU). It means that the committee can pretty much do whatever it likes.
It took basically all of the Power Five falling apart down the stretch for Group of Five member Cincinnati to reach the CFP in 2021. In that special case the committee’s hand was forced. If an undefeated UC that had won at Notre Dame was left out, the fix being in would be quite obvious.
Do we think all the ADs above are corrupt and simply going to vote for brands that are in the best interests of the sport, the TV partners, and any potential future employers someday if they leave their current job? No. There’s no direct reason to impugn their character, and there haven’t been any truly shocking selections so far since the CFP began after the 2014 season. But it would be nice to not have this even be a question in the first place.
But can I make an argument here? Why don’t we have at least one fully-invested quantitative analyst person on either the NCAA Hoops or CFP committees? CBS’s Jerry Palm or ESPN’s Bill Connelly are the types of people that should absolutely have a voice in those rooms. We need more people that follow the sport from a numbers perspective as their full-time job. That’s not something you can do when you’re running a nine-figure athletic department or an energy company.
Could we potentially get a retired bookmaker in there as well? That person would know how to set the “lines” for each of the games (which could be used in evaluating how each team is currently performing for matchup purposes). This nominee couldn’t have any ties to the current betting industry, and they’d need to swear off wagering on the sport 365 days a year themselves, but it would likely make the process more fair.
So yes having some diversity on the committee is good. But even more would be better. And zero administrators of course would be best, as then those making the decision of “Who’s In” would only be accountable to the sport and the games on the field.
But that’s wishful thinking, because like all of college sports: It’s all about the money, and it’s only ever been about the money.