CBS Sports posted an excellent story about the CFP decision similar to the DK diary below. They found the same issue with the CFP Committee using the new criteria identified in the DK diary in order to exclude Florida State from the playoffs. They also found the same issues with the decision to rank Liberty higher than SMU.
CBS had additional information not available to the author of the DK diary. They interviewed the Executive Director of the CFP, Bill Hancock, as well as a committee member who confirmed the ESPN report in the diary. Mr. Hancock denied hearing anyone talk about the new criteria used to exclude Florida State from the playoffs. He also strongly defended the CFP decision and its chairman.
The CBS story scooped the DK diary by one day. Unfortunately, the author of the diary wasn’t aware of their story, as it would have provided more confirmation of the diary. One aspect in the diary the CBS story didn’t discuss is the effect of the deadline the committee was operating under and how it may have affected their decision making ability.
ESPN posted a story explaining the decision of the CFP Committee to leave Florida State out of the playoffs. They were able to find out what happened during the closed door CFP Selection meeting.
At the end of this diary there is a poll for your opinion.
A key point in the ESPN story is a largely unreported clause in the CFP criteria that states: "unavailability of key players ... that may have affected a team's performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance." It is found on the CFP website not on the main page that lists the first four criteria, but under the tab marked 2 — PRINCIPLES, on the right hand side of the page. The full text is below (note last item):
- The selection committee will select the teams using a process that distinguishes among otherwise comparable teams by considering:
- Conference championships won,
- Strength of schedule,
- Head‐to‐head competition,
- Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory), and,
- Other relevant factors such as unavailability of key players and coaches that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.
According to ESPN, this last criteria is the one “That allowed the committee to do something it intentionally avoids every other week: look ahead.”
Using this criteria, one might conclude that the committee determined that the unavailability of FSU’s starting QB will negatively affect its postseason performance. However, per ESPN, an undisclosed committee member said: “We talked about that over and over, and we just kept coming back [to] are they good enough with what they have to win a national championship, and it just kept coming back [to] we didn't think they could." Furthermore, the Committee Chair never explicitly stated that the committee felt that Florida State couldn’t win a national championship, nor did he even mention this clause in his explanation of why this “different team” didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
But, there is more to the committee member’s statement. A NEW criteria was used to disqualify Florida State — “are they good enough...to win a national championship.” This criteria is NOT one of the criteria on the CFP website. It also hasn’t been used before, as far as the author knows.
If one looks back to the 2021 CFP rankings and looks at the odds of winning a national championship, one finds:
- Alabama +120
- Georgia. +140
- Michigan +700
- Cincinnati +1600
- Notre Dame (no odds, not selected))
- Ohio State (no odds, not selected)
Cincinnati is 13x less likely to win the national championship than Alabama. If the committee had used the criteria of “are they good enough...to win a national championship,” then Cincinnati would have been replaced by either Notre Dame or Ohio State, both of whom would likely have been given a better chance to win the national championship. But, instead, an undefeated conference champion in Cincinnati who beat Notre Dame in 2021 was selected despite their unlikelihood of winning a national championship.
Also in 2023, according to the undisclosed committee member, the committee kept their decision to honor head-to-head results. This meant that Texas was always going to be ranked higher than Alabama.
The author’s prior diary provides a detailed analysis of the CFP decision, but without the ESPN story.
There was a second, less well known, controversial decision over which Group of 5 team would play in a New Year’s Bowl. The decision was between Liberty and SMU.
Liberty played the following schools (alphabetical order): Buffalo, Bowling Green, Florida International, Jacksonville State, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State (2x), Old Dominion, Sam Houston, Univ. of Massachusetts, Univ. of Texas at El Paso, and Western Kentucky.
SMU played (alphabetical order): Charlotte, East Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Navy, North Texas, Oklahoma, Prarie View, Rice, TCU, Temple, Tulane, and Tulsa. Oklahoma is a Power 5 school and a ranked team. TCU is a Power 5 school and made the playoffs last year, and Tulane was a ranked school when SMU beat them. SMU lost to Oklahoma and TCU. ‘’’
Liberty finished as an undefeated conference champion of Conference USA, but never played a Power 5 school nor a ranked team.
SMU finished as a 13-2 conference champion of the AAC (American Athletic Conference); played two Power 5 schools, losing both games; and played 2 ranked teams, winning 1 and losing 1. (Oklahoma is both ranked and a Power 5 school.)
The CFP Committee ranked Liberty over SMU, as they were an undefeated conference champion, but SMU was a 2 loss conference champion. Somehow, this committee neglected the wide difference in strength of schedule, as well as the AAC being a stronger conference than Conference USA. (Teams move up from Conference USA to AAC, and not the reverse.)
The commissioner of the AAC was livid over this ranking. He said that for years the CFP refused to rank AAC teams higher because of their lower strength of schedule, and now this CFP Committee ignored the difference in strength of schedule.
Furthermore, the CFP Committee ignored the stronger AAC Conference.
If SMU had been like Liberty and not played any Power 5 schools, SMU would likely have a 13-0 record and be in a New Year 6 Bowl.
Comparing the Liberty decision to the Florida State (FSU) decision, the CFP Committee did a back flip. They rewarded the undefeated team in a weaker conference in the Liberty decision, and rewarded the one loss team in a stronger conference in the FSU decision.
The decisions of this CFP Committee drew strong criticism from a former member. ESPN wrote that this person “...was stunned and said the inconsistencies in this year's ranking were "glaring." ”
This author sees two to three improvements the CFP Committee can make in the future. First, it needs a person in the committee room who acts as a Parliamentarian in terms of the criteria that must govern the decisions made. This prevents the members from formulating their own criteria during a difficult selection process. Second, it needs to avoid making crucial decisions on little rest, and against hard deadlines. Often poor decisions are made in these situations. When faced with this situation, someone has to step up (i.e. a Parliamentarian) and say that some of the selections need to be postponed to allow the committee more time. (If the decision on the Liberty selection was postponed, perhaps a better decision may have been made.) Third, if possible, the decision should be put off until Monday or Tuesday. Tuesday is the normal day the CFP rankings come out. A Sunday noon deadline can be just too tight.