Delany, BCS chiefs aligned on transparency

Despite what they call continued progress, the BCS power brokers remain divided or unsettled on many important aspects of college football's future postseason model.

Whether it's basic structure, access, location of games and the roles of existing bowls, the major conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletic director haven't reached any firm conclusions. When they present their findings to the BCS presidential oversight committee June 26 in Washington, they'll almost certainly present multiple models (2-3) rather than one recommendation.

The debate and discussion is very much alive.

But there's one item everyone agrees on: college football's future postseason model must be more transparent than its present one.

The need for greater transparency -- and its support from all the BCS kingpins -- is the focus of my story today. The current BCS formula has produced as much confusion as it has outrage because of so many unknowns. The coaches' poll only reveals its final ballots, while five of the six computer rankings systems remain secret.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been especially vocal about the importance of transparency in whatever selection process is used in the future model. He recently told me, "On a scale of 1-10, the transparency we have now would have a hard time getting above 3, 4, 5." While Delany's position on transparency might be tough for some to digest, given his staunch defense of the BCS over the years, he has made it clear what he wants to see going forward.

Here's more from Delany:

"Transparency comes in the form of knowing what the standards and instructions are with the committee. It comes in the form of knowing what's inside the guts of the computer program. And it comes in the form of a chairman coming forward and saying this is why we did what we did. You might disagree with it, but it's the human face and the human voice to explain.

"There's no one to explain why Oregon would be out and Stanford would be in if you used those polls as a proxy for the top four [in 2011]. There's no one to explain how Oklahoma could lose in the [Big 12] championship game and still be the No. 1 team in the country [in 2003]."

If a four-team playoff is incorporated, Delany favors using a selection committee with detailed instructions -- revealed to the public -- to choose the participants. While committee members can use different gauges to evaluate teams -- polls, computer systems -- those gauges should be transparent.

Delany brought up how the NCAA men's basketball selection committee uses RPI to pick at-large teams every year.

"You know what's there," Delany said. "You can argue whether or not it's properly weighted, but there's no misunderstanding of what's there. ... It's OK to look at an RPI. It's OK to look at an AP [poll]. It's OK to look at a coaches' poll. But none of them, by themselves, or even in some sort of combination, provide an appropriate proxy without a human judgment."

Here are some tidbits that didn't make the story:

  • The concepts of greater transparency and stronger scheduling appear to be linked during the BCS negotiations. If there's any opposition to either idea, it's pretty quiet at this point. "As much as we embrace strength of schedule as an important criteria, greater transparency is also uniformly embraced," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said last week. If a selection committee is used, it could receive specific instructions about valuing schedule strength. "Most of us are concerned about establishing directions and standards that give the preference, the priority, the tiebreaker to the champion over the non-champion, and to the team that has clearly gone out and tried to schedule difficult opponents and succeeded, against the team that has avoided that," Delany said.

  • Delany weighed in on the evolution of the BCS formula. From 1998-200s, it used two polls (AP and coaches'), computer average and strength of schedule. It eliminated strength of schedule before the 2004 season, and the Harris Interactive poll replaced the AP the following year. "We tried to fix it along the way," Delany said. "Everybody acted in good faith. We wanted the coaches to be involved. We thought we would give it some credibility. We thought the Harris Poll was really superior to the AP because the AP guys are writing the stories. They felt they shouldn't do it. It was a good move for them and their editors to abandon it. What we replaced it with was superior, but still, since it’s got the computer application inside along with the poll, and we've intentionally taken out certain factors that could be relevant, and other factors that are relevant inside the programs, the information is proprietary. So when you put it all together, when you think about doubling the field, there has to be a better way."

We can all agree on that last point after 15 years of confusion.