The NCAA today revealed its College Football Playoff Selection Panel, a group of 13 individuals deemed passionate and qualified enough to determine the fate of the world. Well, not really, but that’s what it feels like to college football fans who will officially leave their team’s fate in the hands of a panel that decides which teams head into the playoff structure that will soon determine college football’s champion.
Expectations are high for the new College Football Playoff Selection Panel, as fans, coaches and Athletic Directors nationwide have been calling for something to replace the current points-based BCS process. Ironically, today’s unveiling of the 13-member panel comes just days before that points-based process sees its first light of day in the 2013 college football season. The thinking behind the playoff selection panel was to have people, not computers, determine the best football teams in the NCAA.
The panel is comprised of experts, so the outcome should be good. But are the panelists chosen too old to establish a sense of consistency from year to year? Before you read into that as age-ism, let me state clearly that I don’t care how old you are: football is football, and you know it or you don’t. The 13 people who make up the College Football Playoff Selection Panel know it very, very well.
My concern isn’t with their qualifications or abilities “at their age,” but with their age itself. A computer model — even a flawed one, as many people say the BCS is — is unrelentingly consistent from year to year. A computer takes everything into account via static algorithms, and those algorithms hold true from one season to the next (with perhaps some minor tweaks). But the average age of this inaugural College Football Playoff Selection Panel is 61.5 years old (800 combined years divided by 13 panel members). Anyone want to venture what the over/under is on the number of years until one or more people retire from the panel, thus leaving the NCAA up in arms as it tries to find another qualified replacement?
The ensuing “round two” search for panel replacements is sure to be good theater, but what could happen to the consistency and integrity of the panel’s decisions once we have those “Plan B” substitutes? College football fans everywhere are eventually going to get comfortable with the decision-making process and the logic behind their choices. But by adding the human element, that personal touch that we all know is missing from the current BCS model system, the NCAA is also adding a significant risk of inconsistency in that decision-making process.
Those inconsistencies may not happen now, and they may not happen two years from now. But when the four panelists aged 66 or older decide to call it a day, 30% of the now-in-place College Football Playoff Selection Panel will be replaced. Gone will be the institutional knowledge they will have built during that time. Gone will be the chemistry and teamwork they’ll have built with their cohorts in this pressure-packed position. And with it, I fear, will we also lose the credibility and consistency of decisions that fans are so desperately searching for in the post-BCS era. The panel’s abilities and judgment at their age doesn’t scare me; it’s what happens when their age comes into play with the need to select the next generation of the College Football Playoff Selection Panel.