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Berry Tramel  


College Football Playoff: Weekly rankings & voting procedures

by Berry Tramel Published: May 1, 2014

The College Football Playoff pulled back curtain a little Wednesday to reveal how it will conduct business. Here’s what it announced, followed by my thoughts:

* Frequency of rankings: The Football Four committee will meet weekly, in person, on Mondays and Tuesdays to produce rankings, starting with Tuesday, Oct. 28. The rankings will be announced on ESPN each Tuesday evening.

My take: I’m not crazy about the plan. I don’t understand the need to have weekly rankings. Teams with backloaded schedules, or frontloaded schedules, will be viewed a certain way and slotted somewhere. And in the same way that preseason rankings are decried, midseason rankings are no less resolute. The NCAA basketball committee does not do a mock bracket in January. Why a football ranking in late October?

* Data: Thecommittee will review video, statistics and their own expertise. Their emphasis will include won-loss records, strength of schedule, conference championships won, head-to-head results and results against common opponents. The College Football Playoff has retained SportSource Analytics to provide “countless” pieces of statistical information on every team. The data will allow the members to compare and contrast every team on every level possible. The committee will NOT use a single particular formula, such as the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) that is used for NCAA championships.

“People, not mathematical formulas, will pick the teams, and we want to make sure the committee members have all the information they want so they can make the best decisions,” said College Football Playoff director Bill Hancock.

My take: Why does the committee need video. Why does the committee need to know who defends the run and who is great on third-down conversions? I don’t get it. I never have. The committee needs to know who you played, where did you play them and how did you do. The committee should not be gauging the dexterity of defensive tackles or the arm strength of a quarterback.

* Voting Procedures: The committee will rank the top 25 teams in the country and assign teams to the semifinals and to the Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowls in years when they are not hosting semifinal games. The will identify small groups of teams that will then be evaluated against each other in a detailed and deliberative manner. The committee will then vote the teams into the rankings in a combined selection-and-seeding process.

My take: Sounds solid. I like the small group concept. Rank a few teams, then spread out from there.

* Recusal policy: Committee members will be recused from participating in votes involving a school’s team if they or an immediate family member receives compensation from the school or has a professional relationship with that school. The committee will have the option to add other recusals if special circumstances arise. A recused member shall not participate in any votes nor be present during deliberations involving the team’s selection or seeding, but may answer factual questions about the institution from which the member is recused. The recusal policy is virtually identical to the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee policy.

My take: Not sure it goes far enough. Every conference is represented – West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck for the Big 12, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long for the SEC, Southern Cal athletic director Pat Haden for the Pac-12, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez for the Big Ten and Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich for the ACC. Plus other at-large members – long-time NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, a former Oregon athlete; Lieutenant General Michael Gould, retired superintendent of the Air Force Academy; Archie Manning, an Ole Miss football legend; Tom Osborne, former Nebraska coach and AD; Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State and current Stanford professor; Mike Tranghese, former Big East commissioner; Steve Wieberg, former USA Today writer; and Tyrone Willingham, former coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington.

I don’t know how to recuse Luck from all discussions about Big 12 teams. Or Alvarez from Big Ten talk. Or Long from the SEC. And I believe Hancock when he tells me about all the culture that will be established in the committee room, a culture that will snuff out bias. But the SEC, for example, has created quite the culture itself, promoting its own conference prowess. Long will be pulled in both directions. And he’s not the only one. We’ll be hard-pressed to know what goes on in the room.

* Voting protocol:

1. Each committee member will create a list of the 25 teams he or she believes to be the best in the country, in no particular order. Teams listed by more than three members will remain under consideration. Any “recused” member can participate in Step No. 1, but cannot list the team for which he or she is recused. “Recused” teams (i.e., teams for whom a member has been recused) receiving at least three votes in Step No. 1 will remain under consideration.

2.  Each member will list the best six teams, in no particular order. The six teams receiving the most votes will comprise the pool for the first seeding ballot. A recused member can participate in Step No. 2, but cannot list the recused team. If a recused team is within one vote of advancing to the pool, that team will be pooled with the team (or teams) receiving the fewest votes. A “tie-breaker” ranking vote will be conducted among those teams to identify the team or teams that would be added to the pool.

3.  In the first seeding ballot, each member will rank those six teams, one through six, with one being the best. The three teams receiving the fewest points will become the top three seeds. The three teams that were not seeded will be held over for the next seeding ballot. A recused member cannot participate in Step No. 3 if the recused team is in the pool.

4.  Each member will list the six best remaining teams, in no particular order. The three teams receiving the most votes will be added to the three teams held over to comprise the next seeding ballot.

5.  Steps No. 3 and 4 will be repeated until 25 teams have been seeded.

Between each step, the committee members will conduct a thorough evaluation of the teams before conducting the vote. After the rankings are completed, any group of three or more teams can be reconsidered if more than three members vote to do so. Step No. 3 would be repeated to determine if adjustments should be made.

After the first nine teams are seeded, the number of teams for Steps No. 2, 3 and 4 will be increased to eight and four, respectively. At any time in the process, the number of teams to be included in a pool may be increased or decreased with approval of more than eight members of the committee. All votes will be by secret ballot.

My take: All sounds good, except secret ballot. Secret ballot within a secret meeting? That seems a little excessive. If there’s a culture of accountability, why in the heck does a ballot need to be secret?


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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