In the FCS Huddle: Ratings tool hardly a factor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The addition of the Simple Ratings System to the NCAA's selection of the FCS playoffs was welcomed across the division because of the prospect of improved black and white results.

Instead, there's plenty of gray area after the first two years of the SRS's inclusion as a selection tool.

The SRS is similar to the popular RPI rating of teams used in college basketball, a ranking system used to gauge team quality, including strength- of-schedule measure and a win-loss differential.

While never expected to be the definitive answer for the committee in selecting the 13 at-large teams which join the 11 automatic bids in the 24- team field, the SRS wasn't expected to be such a work-in-progress, either. The committee is still producing selections like it did prior to the addition of the SRS, going with subjective analysis over the numbers.

Top-ranked New Hampshire is the prime example of how the SRS isn't gaining a stronghold in the decision-making process.

A year ago, UNH had the lowest SRS among the at-large selections at 29. Five possible at-large teams above the Wildcats in the ratings didn't earn bids.

Now the Wildcats went on and validated the committee's nod. They won three playoff games and reached the national semifinals before losing to North Dakota State.

This season, UNH was ranked sixth in the SRS released on Sunday yet gained the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. The Wildcats appear poised to validate the committee again, but the top seeding doesn't bode well for the SRS when the numbers had No. 2 seed North Dakota State with the top rating, third-seeded Jacksonville State second, seventh-seeded Coastal Carolina third and fifth- seeded Illinois State fourth, as well as Harvard, from an Ivy League that doesn't participate in the playoffs, fifth.

In addition, Richmond (25), Montana State (29) and Stephen F. Austin (32) earned at-large bids, while Idaho State (19), Bethune-Cookman (24), Bryant (26), Charleston Southern (27) and Bucknell (30) did not.

The two-year results of the SRS indicate the selection committee continues to penalize teams that don't have at least seven wins against Division I competition - often a big factor among the final at-large selections. Also, finishing the regular season strong remains favorable to the committee, although the SRS is not designed for such an evaluation.

The final at-large selections of the playoff field are always going to exclude unhappy teams whose bubble gets burst on Selection Sunday.

But the NCAA unveiled the SRS as if the decisions would be made cleaner and better. After the first two years of use, it's not the case.

It's time to improve the SRS or punt it away.