The BCS is being overhauled in 2014 to include a four-team playoff and likely use a selection committee. What role will the polls play in the new system? Will it lead to even more split national championships and controversy than the current BCS?
The inner workings of the FBS Playoff (there is no official name yet) are still unknown. Pollspeak e-mailed BCS Executive Director, Bill Hancock a list of questions. While he was gracious enough to try to respond to each, the general answer for all was "TBD" (paraphrasing.) However, based on what Pollspeak knows, here are some important questions that need to be answered and how they will likely play out.
It has been widely stated that a selection committee will be used to determine the four teams for the FBS Playoff. How people will be chosen for the committee is probably the most compelling question, but equally compelling for Pollspeak is what tools they will use to rank teams. Will they have some form of RPI, or will they use a BCS computer system like Sagarin, Massey, Colley, etc. for reference? Will they use the old BCS formula, or will they just go on personal opinion? All we know right now is that the conference commissioners are setting the guidelines for everything. The biggest difference between a committee and the BCS is that those tools will just be suggestions and not requirements for what teams are chosen. So the choices will be a lot more subjective and will open the door for more controversy than we’ve seen since the BCS started in 1998.
What does seem pretty obvious, though, is that the Coaches’ Poll won’t be tied to the championship like in the BCS era. The Coaches have a deal with the BCS where they always vote the winner of the BCS Championship Game No. 1 in the final poll. That requirement will go away. So the AFCA National Championship Trophy (Coaches’ Trophy) will no longer be tied to the FBS Tournament Champion. The BCS never had its own trophy (like the AP Trophy or Coaches’ Trophy), and the tournament will now need to come up with their own.
So the Coaches Poll will no longer be used to directly determine the de-facto national champion after 2013. The poll will still exist after the BCS. It will be reported on, tracked for historical reasons, etc. It will still award a champion, just as it has since 1950, but it probably won’t be scrutinized as much after the BCS era ends.
On that note, the Harris Interactive Poll may disappear completely in 2014. It was originally contracted by the BCS specifically for use in the BCS. With a committee in place, there is no longer a need for this poll. Its future is currently up in the air and Bill Hancock, can only say “so much is unknown at this time.” Pollspeak has an interesting theory, though. The Harris Interactive Poll could “evolve” into the selection committee. After all, the poll is moderated by a respected third party (Harris Interactive) and the voters are all chosen by the various conferences in equal numbers to represent their conference. It sounds just like a selection committee… with over 100 people on it. Will the new committee just be a mirror image of the Harris Interactive College Football Poll? If so, hopefully they will make all of their ballots public (like the AP Poll) to help avoid some of the inevitable conspiracy theories.
The AP Poll’s role going forward will remain unchanged. It has continued to award its champion every year during the BCS era even though it isn’t part of the BCS formula. It is the oldest of the current polls, dating back to 1936 and will always be tracked for historical purposes. It is also the media poll and often used in TV, radio, newspapers, etc. to rank teams and promote high-profile matchups. Another rumor about the new playoff system is that the selection committee will start releasing their results a few weeks before the playoff so teams and fans know where they stand. However, it is unknown how early or how deep the committee will rank. Will they only name a top four? Top 10? Top 25? Until this is figured out, the AP Poll will likely continue to be used in the media.
The big take-aways from all of this speculation is that the Coaches’ Poll will return to its place in polling history as another player in the football champion naming game, and the Harris Interactive poll as we know it will likely go away. Unfortunately for football fans, that means we’ll have potential for even more recognized split national champions: Coaches, AP and the FBS Playoff champions. Will the media only care about the FBS Playoff champion? We know that schools and fans will claim any championship they can get.