Behind the Bowl: A look inside the College Football Playoff Selection Committee

Nov 01, 2017

Playing in the College Football Playoff is the pathway to a potential national championship. Each December, four teams are selected by a committee, made up of former players, athletic directors, university presidents and media.

As a way of educating the media and industry leaders about the process, the CFP holds mock selections that simulate the exact process the CFP Selection Committee takes when determining its rankings throughout the fall.

In September, Curt Krizan, chief financial officer at the Fiesta Bowl, participated in a mock selection at the Gaylord Texan Resort, the official CFP selection committee location.

“The CFP invited a representative from each of the six New Year’s bowls and from the 10 conferences,” explained Krizan. “There were 16 of us while the real committee has 13.”

The committee size was one of only a few differences between Krizan’s experience and that of the actual selection. From the hotel room to the symbolic hat rack where committee members “check” their biases, the process was as close to real as it gets.

“Before you go into the selection room, each committee member has a white Nike hat with their name on it,” explained Krizan. “When you walk into that room, you leave your hat at the door and you now represent college football as a whole.”

First, the committee was given a rundown on the data system that is used by the CFP, which allows the group to compare up to four teams at a time using various metrics. For this exercise, the group was tasked with ranking the top 25 teams based off the results of the 2012 college football season.

To begin the process, each participant submitted his/her top 30 teams, unranked, into the official CFP selection computer system. Then, each committee member listed the six best teams, in no particular order. The six teams receiving the most votes would make up the pool for the first round.

“You continue to go round after round after round so it is extremely thorough,” explained Krizan. “At any point in time, the computers are able to pull up a team under consideration and all the necessary stats.”

For the first round, the three teams that ranked highest became the top three teams and the remaining three teams were held over for the next vote. This same process was repeated until the 25 slots were filled.

Additionally, while the committee was debating, the members went back to look at certain plays and games. For instance, if teams share a common opponent, the committee can pull up highlights and statistics from those matchups.

“Point margin can certainly be a factor,” said Krizan. “If you have a team that barely squeaked by and another team that beat the same team comfortably, that matters.”

From his experience, Krizan believes the CFP selection process has all the right tools for choosing how teams are ranked and, after participating in the process, Krizan found the committee’s dedication to the sport to be most impressive.

“Look at the people on the committee and they all have impeccable integrity and a deep working knowledge of college football,” said Krizan. “Using Tom Osbourne as an example, Bill [Hancock] said it best, ‘you may disagree with Tom Osbourne’s decision but you can’t disagree with Tom Osbourne’s integrity.’”

The first round of CFP Rankings for the 2017-18 college football season were released on October 31 and will be released every Tuesday until Selection Sunday on December 3.

  1. Georgia
  2. Alabama
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Clemson
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Ohio State
  7. Penn State
  8. TCU
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Miami
  11. Oklahoma State
  12. Washington
  13. Virginia Tech
  14. Auburn
  15. Iowa State
  16. Mississippi State
  17. USC
  18. UCF
  19. LSU
  20. NC State
  21. Stanford
  22. Arizona
  23. Memphis
  24. Michigan State
  25. Washington State

Click here to see PlayStation Fiesta Bowl and Cactus Bowl predictions based off the most recent CFP rankings.

From Inside the Room

Q. You mention committee member must check their biases at the door. What about sitting university presidents or athletic directors at schools with a team up for discussion?

A. The reason why the people on the committee are selected is because they have unquestioned integrity and anytime someone on the actual committee has a conflict of interest, they cannot vote and they leave the room until that team is decided. These conflict include being currently employed or compensated by a university or have a direct family member working for an organization.

Q. Is voting anonymous?

A. Yes. Each committee ranks member ranks their teams in the computer. Only Bill Hancock and Layla Brock can see how each member voted to act as a safety net in case any troubling pattern from a member starts to occur. Krizan said that Hancock told the group during the mock selection that this has never happened since the CFP was established.

For additional FAQs on the College Football Playoff, click here.