Monday, November 24, 2008

Coaches Poll Must Reveal Individual Ballots One Week Early To Avoid BCS Shenanigans

Demand the AFCA release all coaches' individual Top 25 ballots for next week's poll, when it will matter just as much as in the final week of the season.

The Coaches' Top 25 poll has always been a little sketchy.

Coaches have agendas and vendettas. They are hopelessly conflicted. Some coaches don't even fill out the ballot themselves. No reasonable fan thinks that the coaches actually watch enough games on a Saturday to know who to rank and where to rank them.

Most appallingly, there is almost no transparency: The coaches who vote insist that only their final ballot of the season -- the one that impacts the direct selection of the BCS Top 2 -- be revealed to the public. In other years, that is offensively opaque, but we as fans deal with it.

This season, that is a problem. A huge problem. A Big 12-sized problem.

Because provided that the Big 12's Big 3 -- Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech -- all win out, there will be a 3-way tie for the Big 12 South, triggering a tiebreaking process that ends with the winner of the Big 12 South being determined by BCS ranking -- one-third of that from the Coaches' poll.

Effectively (and not to diminish Missouri's role in the Big 12 title game): One-half of the national championship pairing could very well be determined by next weekend's vote.

Unfortunately, under current Coaches' Poll guidelines, we will never know whether some coaches tank one team or another to help a buddy -- or hurt a rival.

The point is: There is no transparency, and it will taint whatever the result might be. (We can all disagree on a playoff system, but the point of last week's post about an Obamafied playoff is that, at the very least, we get more transparency in the system.)

That's why -- in the event the 3-way-tie scenario is engaged -- the American Football Coaches Association (which administers the Coaches' Poll) must reveal how coaches voted in next week's poll, and not merely the season-ending poll a week later.

Now, that's a little like asking the banking industry to write its own bailout plan -- the AFCA's interest is in placating its coaching fraternity, not in a fair process. It is a trade association, not an independent polling group. (Where-oh-where is the Nate of college football?)

That's why it wasn't able to insist on weekly transparency of coaches' ballots (the coaches scuttled that idea quickly), and that's why it shouldn't be part of the BCS process.

But it is, and fans and the media should insist -- demand -- that coaches' full ballots be revealed next week. If coaches wanted to be a part of this BCS process -- and all voting coaches opted into it -- they should be prepared to back up their ballot every week, and especially next week.

Given that both ESPN and USA Today are sponsors of the Coaches' Poll, it is their journalistic obligation to pressure the poll to reveal individual coaching ballots next week. (Let's set aside, for now, that their sponsorship enables this opaque ridiculousness to continue every season.)

We all suspect that shenanigans go on when it comes to the coaches poll -- a coach's first priority is to his program, not poll integrity. (See Jim Tressell's ludicrous 2006 abdication of his responsibility to the integrity of the sport, by not picking between Florida and Michigan.)

The only way we know for sure that some buddy of Mack Brown's -- as Pete Thamel suggested in today's NY Times -- doesn't rank Oklahoma, say, 20th in order to assure that Texas finishes ahead of OU (or vice versa in the case of Oklahoma) is to open the ballots up NEXT WEEK.

There are CFB sports-media voices with a hell of a lot more power than mine -- Wetzel, Thamel, Forde, Herbstreit, Mandel, Posnanski, Barnhart -- that can put the pressure on the AFCA to commit to releasing the ballots next week.

Any coach who doesn't like that is free to resign from the poll; that's as tell-tale of a sign as any that they were never going to take it as seriously as the fans, media and players do.

(In fact, the ideal would be that we pressure the AFCA to release the ballots AFTER the poll comes out next Sunday, so we can see just how tainted some ballots were. But I'd sooner push the transparency argument now, before it's too late, to get the most accurate and responsible result possible.)

By the way, if Oklahoma loses at OK St next week and makes this debate moot, the coaches are free to keep their ballots hidden from view, as usual. I'm only talking about this in the event that the 3-way-tie/BCS-tiebreaker situation is triggered.

(And, of course, a Missouri win in the Big 12 title game or an SEC implosion of one form or another changes things drastically. But we can only deal with the issue at hand.)

I'm not arguing for this to expose coaches who vote in the poll as unworthy of the responsibility -- even though I suspect many are. That's for another day.

But if this is the system we've got to deal withh, all I want is a little accountability -- a little transparency -- within the current structure to ensure the integrity of a process with little of it to begin with.

Demand the AFCA release all coaches' individual ballots for next week's poll, when it will matter just as much as --- perhaps more than -- the final week of the season.

It's a sketchy enough system as it is. Don't let the coaches get away with robbing fans and the sport of understanding how and why one team is advancing while another is staying home.

-- D.S.

1 comment:

Steve said...

You're not taking transparency far enough. Considering how much preseason polls can affect a season via inertia they should make every poll public information. This is probably the first time someone has told you you haven't taken an argument far enough.