Selection Committee

The Selection Committee is the group that sets the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 teams. It’s a long process that starts before the season and continues right up until Selection Sunday, when the field is revealed. The committee has a variety of tools and resources to work through what might feel like a 10,000-piece puzzle with some pieces that just don’t fit.

The process begins in the fall, when committee members are assigned conferences to monitor during the regular season. They are responsible for analyzing league statistics and monitoring injuries, suspensions and other things that can affect a team’s performance. This information is then fed to the entire committee during a series of conference calls and meetings. It is important that committee members take their responsibilities seriously, and make a conscious effort to understand the issues in order to evaluate them accurately.

Each member of the committee is allowed to nominate 24 teams that they believe deserve an at-large bid. While the committee may have some commonalities in its views, it is also a diverse group. Each member has their own perspective of the college football landscape, which is an invaluable asset to the overall deliberations. Committee members must weigh their own impressions and observations of candidates against the ideal candidate profile in a way that is unbiased and fair.

The role of the chair is crucial in ensuring that all members are participating fairly and that the deliberations remain confidential. It is the chair’s responsibility to remind members of the rules, ensure that the proper recusal rules are followed and set a tone for an open discussion. The chair should also ensure that the committee has sufficient time and enthusiasm to fully engage with the process.

A key issue is the risk of a subgroup or individual dominating the deliberations. A good practice is to use a random ordering system for evaluating and discussing nominees, so that those evaluated or discussed earlier don’t receive undue attention as the brain “tires.” It also prevents subgroups from influencing each other.

Using a color-coded spreadsheet streamlines the process, but it can’t eliminate all the logistical challenges that arise from the five conferences that don’t play their conference title games until Selection Sunday. The committee has to build a complete set of brackets to ensure that it is prepared for any potential problems, such as a team refusing to travel or a site conflict.

It is not unusual for committees to be divided on their choice of a candidate. However, this is less likely to happen if the committee has firmly agreed to and properly weighted the competencies of the ideal candidate profile. This is easier to accomplish if the committee has invested significant time, energy and enthusiasm in the preparation stage of the process.