GG’s Eli Judge offers the College Football Playoff committee a more strategic playbook for announcing team rankings.
Sunday is the day college football fans have been waiting for: the final reveal of the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings. Much to my disappointment, my beloved Oklahoma Sooners won’t be participating. But I, along with thousands of fans across the country, still look forward to finding out which four teams will compete for this year’s national title.
What I and every other fan do not look forward to is hearing CFP committee chair Gary Barta explain why the four teams made the cut.
Each week, the committee seems to use different criteria to decide the team rankings. Sometimes head-to-head games matter, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it seems that the most famous names in college football are given an unfair advantage, no matter what the results on the field say.
The college football playoff committee trying to figure out how to get in 2 loss alabama and Ohio state with no conference championship in over Cincinnati pic.twitter.com/6XABLE49Gn
— jw (@iam_johnw2) November 27, 2021
After the reveal, the committee always faces backlash from reporters and fans alike who don’t understand why each team was chosen. When explanations are offered, they are inconsistent at best.
The rankings will never be without controversy: people will always be upset when their teams don’t make the cut. But each week’s media blowup shows that the committee has some work to do in the PR department. Here we’ll provide some tips for the CFP committee to help them navigate their rankings announcement.
When making an important announcement like the final playoff rankings, the CFP committee must be clear and transparent about how they made their choice. The audience needs to understand that the decision wasn’t spur of the moment or arbitrary.
On this, the committee has failed time and again. If they want to avoid a social media flare-up each time new rankings are released, they should lay out – and stick to – a clear set of criteria for selecting the teams.
By using a clearly defined method, the CFP committee could avoid the most obvious attack on their decision: that it is needlessly subjective. The public may still be unhappy (college football fans are rarely happy), but they won’t be able to question how the committee decided on the final four teams.
While the CFP committee doesn’t always offer insight into their decision-making, when they do, their explanations often differ wildly from week to week. This does nothing to disprove the commonly held notion that the rankings are purely arbitrary, which is what fuels the negative press the committee receives.
If the committee is going to continue to use a holistic approach to decide the four best teams, they should at least be consistent in how they explain the rankings to avoid the weekly media inferno.
While this explanation from CFP Chair Barta didn’t prove popular, it at least made clear the basis for their choice: the statistics don’t lie. More recently, however, Barta stated that there’s actually quite a bit of subjectivity to the rankings. This mixed messaging doesn’t win the committee any new fans, and it undermines their goal of creating a playoff where everyone respects why the teams were picked, even if they don’t necessarily agree.
When the final CFP rankings are released on December 5th, it’s a guarantee that some people will be upset and voice those frustrations on traditional and social media. But if the CFP committee commits to a transparent process with clear criteria for selecting teams and stays on message in explaining their choices each and every week, they can at least defang the most common lines of attack against them.