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Our view: NCAA needs to standardize its playoff selection process

A better method for determining football playoff sites would be to seed the teams according to their records and strength of their schedule. That’s more fair than just looking at wins and losses.

Herald pull quote, 12/7/22
Herald graphic
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Maybe sour grapes are good for wines and jellies – but not for creating policy. So over the course of the next 600 words or so, let’s try hard to keep our critique and disappointment with the NCAA football playoff selection committee to something constructive.

Anyone who follows UND football already knows: The Fighting Hawks lost 38-31 over Thanksgiving weekend to Weber State, a Big Sky opponent that plays its games in Ogden, Utah.

UND fell behind big early on, but battled back to make a game of it before losing by a touchdown.

Fair and square? Of course, but …

Perhaps if the game had been played in Grand Forks, it would have been a different outcome. UND has won 19 of its last 21 games at the Alerus Center, including a number of games that would be considered upsets. One of those recent losses – last year’s setback to highly regarded rival North Dakota State – was close, at 16-10. On the road, the Fighting Hawks have won six of their last 22 games.

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Yes, Weber State had a better record during the 2022 regular season, finishing 9-2, while UND was 7-4. But because the NCAA accepts financial bids for teams to host first-round playoff games, money usually means more than won-loss records. Emphasis on “usually.”

Even though UND submitted a guaranteed bid of $125,500, easily outpacing Weber State’s $41,683, the NCAA chose to play the game in Utah anyway – precedent be darned.

"It's certainly a break in a long-standing precedence that I've understood for years that they make the matchups, and when the field is set, the committee opens envelopes with bids and the higher number hosts," said Patty Viverito, commissioner of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, of which UND is a member. "... It surprises me and disappoints me.”

Jermaine Truax, FCS Playoff Committee chairman, told the Herald that a number of factors are considered, including financials, team performance and athlete experience.

“When we looked for North Dakota and Weber, everything was on par as far as the student-athlete experience, so what it boiled down to was financials and team performance,” he said. “In this case, North Dakota put in a very strong financial bid. … Ultimately, what won the day was the team performance."

Said UND Athletics Director Bill Chaves: “It seems like, in talking with the past chair of the FCS Committee, he can’t recall or recollect a time in his tenure that … the best financial bid didn’t win out.”

The NCAA would be better served if it removed all subjective influences on the process. By doing so, it would create a universal fairness and an environment that could not be viewed as biased or influenced in any way.

Basing it simply on wins and losses is easy, but UND and Weber State didn’t play the same opponents this year, so is it really an equal comparison?

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A better method would be to seed the teams according to their records and strength of their schedule. That’s more fair than just looking at wins and losses.

Then, take the financial picture out entirely. If teams can buy their way to a first-round advantage, that might not be the best scenario to follow anyway. But if financials do matter that much, at least be consistent about it.

Either way, something must be done to ensure fairness in selecting game sites, which at present seems to be based on the whims of a committee, rather than a set and standard process.

The NCAA should do better than that.

Related Topics: OUR VIEWUND FOOTBALLBILL CHAVES
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