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Pope: Polls have no place in football playoff

Jim Grobe

Jim Grobe

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Updated: June 26, 2013 6:17AM



We are less than 100 days away from the kickoff to the college football season.

But I already want to skip ahead to the end.

Earlier this week, the College Football Bowl Association released the 2013-14 postseason schedule. For anyone wondering, the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl is Dec. 23.

But there’s already been way more chatter about the 2014-15 postseason.

That’s when it’s out with the Bowl Championship Series and in with the College Football Playoff. The new format will be a dream-come-true for many fans. Of course, this being college football, there is still plenty to argue about.

It’s a four-team playoff. Some fans want more (eight, maybe 16).

But the most immediate issue is figuring out who will play a role in determining the four playoff teams.

All we know is that a selection committee will be involved.

A portion of the College Football Playoff website reads: “A selection committee will choose the four teams for the playoff based on their performance during the regular season, including, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, championships won, and other factors.”

Last week, coaches from the ACC added to the debate. ESPN.com reported that the ACC coaches wanted to have the coaches’ poll have some influence in the process.

“The biggest item for us is the criteria of selecting those four teams,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe told ESPN.com. “We want our coaches’ poll to matter. In another sense, all the coaches have a vote on the committee, and we think that’s good for the game for the coaches to be good stewards of who’s in that national championship picture.

“All of us having a vote, the vote becoming transparent and the vote being conscientiously done. We think we’re qualified. We’re not watching every game on the East Coast, on the West Coast, but no one else is, either. We see a lot of film of a lot of people. We know who’s good, and who’s best — maybe moreso than anybody else is looking at the game.”

Cutcliffe makes some good points. It is difficult to catch every game, which is one reason why I don’t think beat reporters should have a hand in the selection process as well. Technology has helped provide more ways to watch a game — on your computer, smartphone or iPad. But if you are covering a particular team or game, you are locked in on that contest for at least a good six hours (including the postgame interviews and stories).

Cutcliffe is also correct that coaches do have insight on teams and players that no one else will have. But I think it’s too much to expect coaches from, say the Big Ten, to take time out of their busy schedule to break down film of a Big 12 school in October. Those coaches will be focused on their team and that week’s opponent. And rightfully so.

There are other obstacles in the way.

The biggest one is bias.

“Part of our concern was when you start naming individual coaches, it’s so hard to not have bias by coaches that have coached in certain leagues,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe told ESPN.com.

“So the way we looked at it is if we allowed all the coaches to vote in the coaches poll and the coaches poll was looked at as a major contributing factor to the selection process, then all college coaches would have some input into the selection process. We’re just throwing things out right now because I don’t think anybody has a firm grasp of things.

“Will you have some bias from each coach? Absolutely you will, but through the country if it got balanced out, you’d probably still have a pretty legitimate idea of at least who the coaches though the top-four teams were.”

But I still think that bias would play too big of a role. And with so much at stake, it’s a road the playoff shouldn’t take.

I like the plan of a selection committee. I’m envisioning something similar to the way the field is selected for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

It will be a tough task for the committee. I’ll be glad to just sit back and observe. And so should the current coaches.



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