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Phillip Marshall: 'Eye test' not answer for playoff

May 1, 2014

If you love college football and this doesn’t scare you, it should. Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long, who is chairman of the selection committee that will choose four teams for the first playoff, said Wednesday the focus won’t be on picking the four most deserving teams but the four best teams.

Does that mean that the committee is going to look at statistics and the dreaded “eye test” instead of who wins or loses games? Is college football, for the first time in its history, going to be about who is the most talented instead of about accomplishment?

If that’s the case, I’m glad I’m getting close to retirement.

You have to assume from what Long said that Alabama could have gotten the nod over Auburn or Florida State last season if the committee members thought it was “better,” according to some unknown formula.

I really wonder how many of the folks on that committee realize what they have gotten themselves into.

Picking a champion or playoff participants in a subjective process is dicey business. The NFL might not always get all the best teams in its playoff, but no one is voting on who goes and who doesn’t. It’s the same in other professional sports. But it’s not that way in college football or, really, any college sport.

The committee announced Wednesday that it will meet weekly starting in late October and will release a Top 25 each Tuesday. Long, as chairman, will go on ESPN to explain it. That, of course, is a shameless way to throw ESPN a bone since there will be no more BCS rankings. But I wouldn’t want to be Long.

I have no doubt that Long and other committee members are people of integrity. That’s me. College football fans don’t all look at things that way. If an SEC team squeezes into the top four in a close race, Long will be accused of bias. But what if Auburn, who is not the favorite of Long’s head coach, is squeezed out? He’ll quickly be accused of bias the other way.



It would have made far more sense to keep the old BCS ranking system and simply add two teams. You had computers and more than 100 voters. Other than 2004, when there was no real way to get it right, the system worked pretty well. There will be much easier targets available for criticism now.

The four-team playoff is an idea whose time has come. The selection committee was a bad idea that is likely to end badly.

It’s college football. Who plays for a championship should be based on accomplishment. Who did you play? Who did you beat? Who did you lose to? Those three questions ought to be the ones that really matter.

How you looked, how many NFL prospects you have, how badly you beat teams, who your coach is and all the other “eye test” things should be left to the fans.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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