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June 22, 2012

New BCS committee needs to be transparent

The Associated Press college football poll, which I assume will continue in the coming playoffs years just as the basketball poll has, rotates its ballot around the state of Alabama each year so different people in the media get a chance to participate. My turn comes once a decade or so, and I voted in 2000 and again in 2011.

From a local standpoint, neither year was particularly controversial. In 2000, Alabama started with a high ranking (No. 3, although I had them slightly lower at No. 5), but the Crimson Tide was terrible in its opener against UCLA, even worse two weeks later against Southern Miss and I never gave them a second thought after that.

In 2011, Auburn kept winning and so did Oregon, but I eventually put the Tigers ahead of the Ducks and voted that way the last four weeks of the season. All the votes were transparent and, judging from other voters on Polltracker, which keeps up with such things, I was fairly middle of the road.

But that didn't prevent emails and letters questioning whether someone who works in Tuscaloosa or attended Alabama could vote fairly. I am sure the same thing happens in Gainesville or Boulder or Ann Arbor. I always tried to replay, and always asked if the person questioning my credibility thought he or she could vote fairly. The answer was always "yes."

The point is that it is easy for any of us to trust our own objectivity. We just don't trust anyone else's, and that's why the issue of a committee choosing the participants in the coming postseason college football playoff has touched so many nerves. Every fan base is its own little fiefdom or principality, like Europe in the Middle Ages, and no one trusts anyone else, whether they are in a shifting alliance (like a conference) or not. So there is understandable skepticism about a committee doing the choosing.

Here is the thing, though. No matter what method you use, people are ultimately going to do the choosing. Even if you go digital, computers are programmed by people. And people have agendas. So the powers that be in the BCS are at least trying to make sure they know what those agendas will be. I suspect you will see a committee of eight or nine members, which is fine. It will be stocked by the usual suspects - athletic directors, conference commissioners - which is fair, too, I guess. Personally, I wouldn't want to see any media members on there, not because they don't know football - some do, very well - but because it isn't our role.

Here are a few things I would like to see. First, if a team finished fifth one year, it would have a representative - probably an AD - on the committee the next year. The fifth -place team is going to replace the third-place team as next year's great complainer anyway, so at least take the chance to say "Fine, you do it next year." If Stanford had been left out in 2011 because Oregon won the Pac-12, then Stanford would have a spot in 2012. Also, reserve at least one spot for the commissioner of one of the small "conferences" - the MAC, the Sun Belt and so on. And have a reputable computer guy (I know that some are quasi-media) every year. I don't always agree with Ken Pomeroy or Jerry Palm, but I think they'd add a lot to the debate. Last, have someone from the Ivy League, which isn't even a part of the BCS. We are still talking college athletics here. Then have your other five spots from the standard lists - big-stick wielders from the big leagues - and have at it. Make the process transparent, don't save a spot for football writers or ESPN analysts or retired coaches, and you'd have something. It might not be perfect, but at least it would be entertaining - and open to public scrutiny.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.



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