(STATS) – Fans who tune in to watch the announcement of the FCS playoff field on Sunday may be thinking they can do a better job than the actual selection committee.
That kind of scrutiny tends to follow members of NCAA selection committees.
But jump into the hot seat and those – you name it, passionate, picky, angry – fans may come to realize they would have put in hundreds of hours of preparation leading into the weekend of Selection Sunday.
The selection committee, consisting of one representative from each of the 10 FCS conferences that has an automatic bid, will construct the 24-team pairings at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. They will be released on an ESPNU selection show (12:30 p.m. ET Sunday).
Greg Seitz, the Jacksonville State athletic director who represents the Ohio Valley Conference, is the chair of the committee, which also consists of Thorr Bjorn (Rhode Island, CAA Football), Randy Eaton (Western Carolina, Southern Conference), Kent Haslem (Montana, Big Sky Conference), Eugene Marshall Jr. (Hampton, Big South Conference), Kyle Moats (Missouri State, Missouri Valley Football Conference), Tim Murray (Marist, Pioneer Football League), Matt Roan (Nicholls, Southland Conference), Bill Smith (Bryant, Northeast Conference) and Jermaine Truax (Bucknell, Patriot League).
In a Q&A with STATS on Wednesday, Seitz discussed the selection process and how the field will come together this weekend.
STATS: Greg, the public reveal of the committee’s Top 10 rankings (on Nov. 6) feels long ago. What has to happen for the committee to go back to releasing multiple sets of rankings?
GS: I think we love to generate interest in FCS football and that’s the reason we kind of do that three weeks out. But just so much can change because there’s so much football that has to be played over those final three weeks. We really want to make sure that we’re getting all the data and the information together to make sure we’re selecting the best 14 at-large teams there. By giving that release early, it does generate some talk among FCS football.
STATS: Can you talk about how this year’s group of playoff contenders compares to past years going into this final weekend?
GS: To me, this year just from looking at all the data and the information we have, there are a lot of quality teams just right there on the cut line as we get into the (selection) room. I think there’s going to be minor things that are going to set some teams apart as we get into the room to discuss the SRS (Simple Rating System, which gauges team quality) or the strength of schedule or common opponents. I think the difference between is going to be hairline as we get down to looking at the last few teams in.
STATS: Some past committee chairs have intimated the SRS hasn’t been used in a big way. Why is that because it’s such a relevant tool?
GS: There’s 10 athletic directors that are on the committee and I think each person will look at tools differently. I think that’s what’s so good about the FCS selection committee is each person individually will look at different things. For me personally, if it’s the RAC (regional advisory committee rankings) or the SRS or the coaches poll, the strength of schedule, I just feel like that all 10 people may look at each tool differently as we make our votes and selections. But the SRS, as the season goes along, the data becomes much more valuable because it takes into account your strength of schedule and who your opponents play. I think by the time we get down to this weekend, and we’ll get one final SRS, it is another tool that we use, but I’m not sure we would say it weighs out more or less than any of our other tools.
STATS: With that in mind, this is your fourth and final year on the selection committee. How has your understanding of the selection process grown over the four years?
GS: The NCAA really lays out the rules on how you do the selections and bracketing – there’s a definite process that we end up following. I think the perception out there a lot of times from the public is the folks just get in and they really don’t put in the time and really just pick teams, where there are traditional teams that are usually in there. But I can tell you the committee spends a lot of time. I probably have watched over a hundred football games this season and we just have so much data that is provided to us that we’re able to digest and take into account as we get into the room. Really, when you’re part of the whole process, it gives you a better understanding of how this works. This is not just for FCS football, we’re using the same selection and bracketing process that they use for the men’s basketball, the women’s basketball, baseball, softball. It’s the exact selection and bracketing process that they use among all their championships.
STATS: A selection committee basically in any sport is going to come under criticism. Is that unfair?
GS: I’m not sure it’s unfair because there’s so many passionate FCS football fans out there and they’re all rooting for their team. And it’s not just one person’s decision as we get into the room, we’re taking a 10-person vote and you’ve got to have a majority of votes, seven of the 10 have to select that team before they’re into the selection process. I’m not sure it’s unfair because I think everybody wants their team to get into the playoffs.
STATS: What criteria in the selection process would you like to see changed?
GS: That’s a great question. I think we’re in a really good spot. What I wish would happen is if we could get more … you know, the schools only have an opportunity for (scheduling) those out-of-conference games. They can’t control their conference schedule, but they can control their out-of-conference schedule, and I would like for teams to really schedule other quality, out-of-conference teams because it looks really good on a team’s resume – especially FCS opponents. I would hope that we could get to the point where maybe teams are not scheduling as many non-D I teams. It just takes an opportunity away from those teams to schedule an FCS opponent.
STATS: When in the nonconference, how do you weigh a close loss between two quality teams versus a higher-ranked team playing a cupcake?
GS: Well, I think that’s what each individual has to take into account. For me personally, I look at the quality of the opponent and how the game was played because we do watch a lot of football. I think that the committee members do like to see those Top 15-, Top 20-type matchups. I don’t think they’ll penalize a team if the game’s fairly close.
STATS: Obviously, an FCS win over the FBS is huge on a resume. How do you evaluate an FCS loss to an FBS opponent? For instance, would a seven-point loss be considered favorable compared to a lopsided loss to the FBS?
GS: Oh yeah, absolutely it does. I think each committee will certainly look at really close FCS games against FBS opponents because of the difference in the two levels. A couple that come to mind, Furman and Virginia Tech was like a 24-17 game. We’ve only had three FBS wins so far this year, and we’ve had some really close games. I think of Central Connecticut State, they lost 34-29 to Eastern Michigan. I know that Southeastern Louisiana was very competitive with Ole Miss until late in the fourth quarter. So I think the committee does look at and evaluate close losses as they’re taking into account their rankings and selections.
STATS: Last year, three teams earned at-large bids with only six Division I wins. Does the committee still prefer seven, and is that even more so in a 12-game regular season?
GS: Obviously, FCS wins are important. When we look at those FCS wins, I think it will definitely be very tough this year for a six-win team to get in because so many schools had the opportunity to play the 12th game.
STATS: Is the committee doing anything new this year? Perhaps special announcements, social media interaction and things like that?
GS: There is. We’re on the NCAA’s Selections 101 website that is new this year that we’ve created just to kind of walk folks through the process. It’s located on the NCAA FCS website (www.ncaa.org/FCSselections). We’ve put a Selections 101 video on there that walks everybody through the entire process – how the selections are made, how the bracket is determined. We talk about our step one, where we go in and seed the top eight, and then we do the bracketing, then we determine the host sites once the bracket is set. We’re trying to be more open and transparent and just educate our fans on how the process works.
STATS: What do you enjoy the most about the selection process?
GS: I think just following FCS football the entire year and getting to watch games outside the Ohio Valley Conference and just realizing how good FCS football is across the country. This year, we’ve got some really, really good teams. Other conferences that normally I may not get to see. For example, like the Big Sky being that far away from us from a geographical standpoint, I get an opportunity to watch more Big Sky games than I normally would watch.
STATS: Anything else you want to point out, Greg?
GS: No, I know a lot of fans will be following and it’s going to be an exciting weekend. I’m looking forward to getting in the room with everybody as we go in and start dissecting these teams and breaking down their resumes to select those 14 best at-large teams. Just looking forward to this year’s championship (playoffs).