Posted: 9:23 a.m. Friday, May 17, 2013
Earlier this week, the football coaches of the ACC announced that they would like the Coaches' Poll to play a role in the College Football Playoff selection process.
This, in short, is a terrible idea. I've covered this topic many times here, but I'll go ahead an pick a passage from my attempt last year at a definitive explanation of what should and should not be part of the selection process:
The Coaches' Poll is a relic from a time that has long passed. Coaches don't closely study much beyond their own team and their future opponents. It's an open secret that sports information directors do the actual heavy lifting on most (if not all) Coaches' Poll votes with the coaches only editing those ballots as they see fit.
Plus, the Coaches' Poll is a giant conflict of interest. Some coaches have incentives tied to poll finishes and most have some for BCS appearances too. Is a coach's vote definitely going to be valid if, by manipulating it, he can have a better chance at a couple hundred thousand extra dollars at the end of the year? It's an embarrassment that it's even in the current system. It doesn't belong in what comes next.
I think I understand where this pathological desire for coaches to be in the selection process comes from. They've had a say in the national champion via the Coaches' Poll for decades, so they're used to the privilege, and they're probably afraid that relative know-nothings will end up picking who gets to play in the tournament. By "relative know-nothings", I mean people who use advanced statistical methods that most coaches don't care to understand. Coaches have never spoken a kind word about the BCS computer polls that I'm aware of (they're right, but for the wrong reasons), and many like to say things like "I don't care about statistics" to reinforce the idea that football is for Men and not for Nerds.
As it happens, I'd be OK with some coaches being involved in the process. Just not active ones. Back in that piece last May, which was before we knew there would be a selection committee, I promoted the Legends Poll as a possibility for inclusion. It's a panel of 17 former coaches, most of whom are hall of famers. It currently includes guys like Frank Broyles, Bobby Bowden, Vince Dooley, Pat Dye, and Gene Stallings.
Two days before the ACC coaches made their bad recommendation, Bruce Feldman wrote a piece on how the Legends Poll is quite possibly the best selection committee option. The folks running the poll send out DVDs of key games to the participants, they have conference calls to discuss what they saw, and all ballots are public. It's a pretty rigorous system, and the guys on the panel certainly know the game well.
Most importantly, the Legends Poll coaches actually want to be on the selection committee. Just about anyone else who as been asked if they want to be on it responds with some variation on, "I'd rather not have my house burned down, thanks". These coaches have built up thick skins from running big time programs over the years, so they're perhaps as best suited as anyone to dealing with the pressure of being on the committee.
I don't think the Legends Poll guys should make up the entirety of the committee. I do think the advanced stats guys should have a seat at the table to some degree. The retired coaches would be a great start, though, and the Coaches' Poll should have nothing to do with it.