4 Things the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee Can Teach College Football
Within two years, college football fans, the wicked witch of the Bowl Championship Series will finally be dead.
While followers of the sport celebrate the end of computer formulas and coaches who watch one game a week to determine a mythical national champion, there is still unfinished business.
How exactly will the playoff teams be determined?
Well, it appears that a selection committee—modeled after the one college basketball uses to seed teams in the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship—will be put in place. After years of dealing with controversial BCS rulings, you can bet the decision makers in college football will want the best committee it can create.
Of course, the contention will always be there, but the football committee can learn a thing or two from basketball’s version.
The following is a list of four things the NCAA tournament selection committee can teach college football’s group.
Nonconference Strength Matters
At this point, we know what to expect from the top teams in college football’s early weeks.
Yes, there are always a handful of programs that schedule non-conference showdowns with powerhouses—think the University of Alabama vs. the University of Michigan this season. But for the most part, we are treated to a smorgasbord of directional-school cupcakes.
The small colleges get a paycheck, and the large colleges get a victory. It appears everyone’s happy.
Well, non-conference strength is important in college basketball. While there are plenty of easy games, it will much more difficult for a team to earn an at-large bid into a tournament without mixing in some challenges.
Even if a team that takes the easy way out in its non-conference schedule makes the tournament, it will in all likelihood get punished in the seeding.
Take a look at Cincinnati last year. The Bearcats made it to the Big East championship game behind a great season but only earned a No. 6 seed in March. The team's non-conference schedule ranked 317, and the Bearcats were on the bubble much of the season.
If the college football selection committee places at least a marginal level of importance on non-conference scheduling, we will see more Alabama vs. Michigan games and fewer Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan games.
Body of Work
The body of work category is where Southeastern Conference teams can separate themselves from teams in the Big East.
While non-conference showdowns are certainly important and can boost a resume (see the last slide), it is also imperative that playoff-worthy teams are navigating challenging schedules week-in and week-out.
Not to keep picking on the Big East, but if Alabama plays an October and November schedule of Arkansas, University of Georgia, Louisiana State University, University of Florida, South Carolina University and Auburn University, it should trump the fact that Syracuse University played Penn State University in September.
The most qualified teams should have a handful of difficult non-conference games mixed in with an overall challenging schedule.
Additionally, college basketball has shifted its focus from the last 10 games to the overall body of work. This ensures quality teams are not unjustly punished if they lose a couple of late season games, while teams that struggled early are not given more credit than they deserve with a late winning streak.
If college football were to adopt this mentality, a team would have to be successful all year long, not just in the season’s closing moments.
Conference Championships Matter
This is where some of the most divisive splits take place when it comes to who should be included in the college football playoffs.
Some think only conference champions should be involved, while others think it should just be the top four teams regardless of conference standings (count Alabama in the latter category after last season’s national championship).
If the scenario arose, it seems patently unfair for a conference champion of a lesser conference to be included over the second best team in the country if that second best team didn’t win its conference.
However, conference championships are important and shouldn’t be relegated to afterthought status once the playoff begins. Thus, the college football committee should assume college basketball’s treatment of regular season conference champs.
A regular season conference title in college basketball does not guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament, but it does give more credence to the given team’s resume. Thus, conference championships should matter, but they should not serve as a be-all end-all.
Of course, there can never be 100 percent objectivity in almost anything, but at least the college basketball committee takes the necessary strides to appear as objective as possible.
In fact, according to NCAA bylaws, members of the committee can only serve five-year terms and are chosen from around the country to guarantee that major and mid-major conferences have representation.
Additionally, committee members are not allowed to be present during discussions about the selection or seeding of a team that the member represents as either an athletics director of commissioner.
If college football adopts these guidelines, the selection committee may be spared from the arguments that seem to define any interactions between Big Ten Conference commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive.
This will ensure that teams such as Boise State will at least have a seat at the table during playoff discussions.
We are not far off from the college football playoff that fans have been clamoring for in recent years. College basketball can help with the transition.