What the College Football Playoff committee is already getting wrong

·Columnist

The College Football Playoff committee will release its first weekly poll Tuesday evening and one of the chief concerns is how many teams from the Southeastern Conference will be in the top four.

Here's what should be a bigger concern: How will the committee react to the inevitable outrage that will come from their initial ranking, no matter what it is?

It's late October, so who the committee puts at the top doesn't matter. There are plenty of games yet to be played.

It is, in fact, idiotic to even release a poll based on partial data that will soon change.

It's also idiotic to use a top-25 poll in any way, shape or form since … smart people who know math have proven rankings are illogical.

(Arrow's Impossibility Theorem decries rankings as a way to chose one from many. A basic Borda count system is prone to discounting majority opinion; there's the inherent mathematical issue with assigning equal value between each rank – some might be closer, or greater, than others – and … well, there's more but that's a lot of book learnin' and face it, college football administrators have never been much for actual college.)

Screaming about bias and cheating and inconsistency and incompetency, even where it doesn't exist … now that is what college football is about.

(An aside: remember, it makes perfect sense to believe a new, billion-dollar national sports entity and its international broadcast partner would do all it can to favor teams from small, poor Southern television markets. Perfect sense.)

[Related: What to know before the first CFP rankings are revealed]

Embracing the debate is the reason the committee has foolishly decided to release a weekly top 25 in the first place … public relations getting in the way of actual problem solving.

How much in the way is the question.

The four-team playoff should include the four most deserving teams and only the four most deserving teams. If that includes two SEC teams, three SEC teams, even four SEC teams, then so be it. Or four Big Ten teams. Don't laugh; this is a hypothetical discussion.

The College Football Playoff committee is setting itself up for criticism with a weekly rankings release. (Getty)
The College Football Playoff committee is setting itself up for criticism with a weekly rankings release. (Getty)

If you are a fan of the sport, then this isn't debatable, no matter how much you want to see a local team.

Anything else is a perversion to the system. Dumb arguments, such as Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's that the Midwest's many television sets should help a Big Ten team, can be ignored.

That's why you have a committee of 12 highly intelligent and fully engaged people to make the call. In the calm of a conference room, they can follow a set process to reject nonsense that doesn't carry any real value. Under the old BCS, there was no telling what was influencing the nearly 200 poll voters. Heck, Dantonio was a voter.

Still, completely rejecting outside opinion isn't easy and that's one of the reasons why releasing a weekly top-25 poll is such a bad idea.

Which four teams are picked now matters about as much as whom is leading a 100-meter dash after 60 meters … when Usain Bolt is just getting up to speed.

The selection committee is like a jury and thousands of years of global jurisprudence concluded that a jury runs best when it isn't influenced by public opinion and it should never, ever discuss anything internally until after all the evidence is presented and the closing arguments are complete.

Say a word and you're dismissed. The judge will then determine if the process has been so corrupted that a mistrial is in order. It's all in an effort to avoid predetermination, voting factions and a failure to fully assess final evidence.

The College Football Playoff selection committee apparently has no interest in bedrock principles handed down from the ancient Greeks, let alone how it's done by august entities such as American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, where the original weekly judges aren't allowed to pick the final winner.

Instead it will render not just partial, real-time verdicts, but it will essentially lay out how much it values incomplete evidence and progressing facts as the trial plays out, allowing for extra second-guessing and credibility-questioning criticism.

Seems like a sound idea when you're trying to build trust with the public.

Arkansas AD Jeff Long said he has watched much more football this season due to CFP duties. (AP)
Arkansas AD Jeff Long said he has watched much more football this season due to CFP duties. (AP)

And slighted fan bases will surely be expressing outrage through Twitter, Facebook and email. Or simply by shouting at committee members in person.

It would be best for the committee to convene the final weekend of the year and hash this out across a couple days, if it even took that long. They should explain the decision to the public. Then go home.

Instead, busy work created solely to generate publicity puts the spotlight square on the members and hinges them to a ranking system that insults science.

So, will they be susceptible to the ensuing rage … no matter what it is? Will they lose their nerve when a trend that is defensible, but unpopular, emerges? Will they bristle at the unnecessary beating coming about the back half of the rankings that don't matter in the first place? Will they wind up mimicking popular opinion and media narratives in an effort to create calm?

This is a good group of people, but a six-week onslaught of counter arguments isn't easy to ignore.

Despite being poorly set up and overextended, the selection committee should work. Picking four teams isn't that difficult.

They just made it that way.

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