Written by Steven Vitte
The Bowl Championship Series lasted from 1998 to 2013, and while the combined formula of computers, coaches and press tried its best to select the best 2 teams to compete for the National Championship in college football at the end of each year, the fact of the matter was that hardly anybody was really satisfied with the way the selection process was handled. The BCS came under intense scrutiny in most years of its existence with one of the main arguments against the BCS being that it was too complex of a selection system.
A change was finally made before the start of the 2014 college football season as a new postseason system would be implemented to make sure that the selection process of the teams competing for the National Championship would be more fair and easier to understand. Let’s take an in-depth look at how this new system is set up.
Instead of 2 teams in the old BCS format, the new College Football Playoff format involves the top 4 teams playing for the National Championship. A Selection Committee comprised of 13 members that are spread across the board in backgrounds, having affiliation with conferences or no affiliation at all, will present their top 25 rankings of teams beginning in the middle of the regular season. Former coaches, players and administrators are normally chosen to represent the Selection Committee while retired media members are also considered for spots on the committee. One key note would be that for any committee members that have ties to a specific school or conference will not be allowed to discuss nor vote on that school’s team. For example, if the Clemson Tigers were to go undefeated for most of the 2015 regular season and contend for a playoff spot, Dan Radakovich would not be allowed to make a call on Clemson because he serves as Clemson’s athletic director. This action is done to prevent any biases from developing in the selection process.
The current chairman of the Selection Committee is Jeff Long, who currently serves as the athletic director for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Other notable current members of the committee include Michael C. Gould, a former superintendent for the Air Force Academy, Tom Jernstedt, a former executive vice president of the NCAA, and former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese.
Each committee member chooses their top 4 teams and seeds them 1 through 4. 6 of the major bowl games will be given consideration for hosting the Semifinals and Finals of the College Football Playoff. These major bowl games include the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Peach Bowl. Pairings in the other major bowl games will also be determined by the committee. Multiple ballots are used as the foundation of the committee’s voting method, which can be compared to how the NCAA Basketball Tournament selection process is conducted. The committee has to reach a general consensus as to which teams will be ranked 1 through 25. The group of 13 members will get together in-person to debate the best teams as much as 10 times throughout the year. While the order of criteria is different for each committee member, all members generally use these categories below to come up with their selections of the best teams.
As a result of this change in postseason play, TV ratings dramatically increased from the final years of the BCS format. The College Football Playoff National Championship Game generated an 18.9 Nielsen rating, which was significantly better than the highest rating the BCS title game could generate, which was 16.1 in 2011.