GRAPEVINE — A little bacon makes everything better.
That’s why, in a suite adjacent to the conference room that hosts the 13 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, a pan of the crispy delicacy stands ready for the snacking needs of any committee member during deliberation.
But as committee members are crunching, they could be missing out on key votes that determine the outcome of the postseason — votes that can really bring home the bacon for successful programs.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the College Football Playoff held a mock selection committee, inviting 13 media members from across the country to get an inside look into how the final Top 25 poll is formulated. Playing the role of former Texas A&M head coach R. C. Slocum, it didn’t take long for me to realize the weight of each decision the committee member must make, beginning with the first release of the this season’s poll on Nov. 5.
College football does not have a single commissioner. Under the current system, 13 individuals act as a collective commissioner, guiding the sport with every click of a mouse as they cast votes. While executive director Bill Hancock says the precedent each decision sets is not a concern of the committee’s mission, the lasting effects of each vote couldn’t escape the front and back of the mind.
The task the committee performs each week is a noble undertaking and ultimately an impossible and thankless job from the majority of the fan bases across the country.
There is plenty that works well under the current format of selecting small groups of teams and voting them into the poll in groups of three and four. It causes committee members to base their rankings in comparison to other teams with similar resumes. And, as the pendulum in the former Bowl Championship System swung heavily in favor of analytics, the new system adds the human element into the equation as CFP members pick not only the four playoff participants but also the teams in the New Years Six bowl games.
There are also drawbacks, including an opaque definition of what qualifies the nation’s four “best teams.” The definition, which is more a compilation of equal data points like conference championships, head-to-head matchups and strength of schedule, can be weighted differently by each individual committee member.
Bacon, however, is the catalyst of the committee’s most glaring weakness.
Each committee member must recuse themselves from the debate or vote that includes any school from which they, their spouse or any siblings or children receive compensation. For instance, Slocum must exit the committee room when any discussions or votes include A&M or Arizona State commence. Slocum’s son, Shawn, is an associate head coach for the Sun Devils.
While the recused waits outside the conference room, they kill time crunching bacon. And as they wipe grease from their cheek, one of those recusal-causing schools could be lumped into a voting group that could drastically change the landscape of the playoff participants or New Years Six bowl pairings. The conflicting school might be voted out of the picture completely.
As many as three committee members have been recused during a single voting session, Hancock said.
Current committee chair Rob Mullens, athletic director at Oregon, said one of the strengths of the 13-member committee is its diversity and multi-regional representation. But if as many as three members are absent from discussions and voting, whole regions could be left unrepresented, resulting in an inadvertent bias towards particular conferences or programs. It occurred during Wednesday’s mock draft with an underrepresented Pac-12 Conference falling in the poll as experts on that league figuratively chomped on fried pork.
Naturally, allowing committee members to vote on programs that serve their own personal interests is blatantly unethical. The best option would be to combine the votes with a computer-generated poll, not unlike the BCS model, with the results of a committee to balance out a potential absence of representation that can occur under the current model.
Then, and only then, will the NCAA Division I college football postseason be cooking with grease.