Friday, July 24, 2009

We should probably learn something from this

It was all Steve Spurrier's fault. The omission of Tim Tebow on his All-SEC ballot was a simple oversight, he says, and not some devious, twisted plan to screw Tebow out of all the glorious awards and attention of which he is deserving.
Spurrier explained that his director of football operations had filled out the ballot and brought it in to him. Spurrier said he glanced at it, signed off on it, and then realized his mistake much later.
Fair enough. But there's one problem with that, a problem that stretches far beyond All-SEC honors: Why do coaches regularly allow other officials (athletic directors, random assistants, etc.) to fill out their ballots, especially when it comes to the coaches' poll? An oversight like the Tebow one would probably go unnoticed 99% of the time, particularly on an all-conference ballot -- this one was only caught because of Tebow's presumed holiness among media types -- but why should people with no accountability be filling out ballots at all? Isn't that simply inviting a problem?

If I'm some grad assistant working on Pete Carroll's staff and I get handed a ballot and told to do some busy work, I'll certainly do so. But if this is really what happens at any meaningful number of schools, the coaches' poll should be disbanded immediately.

I've argued before that the premise of a coaches' poll is stupid -- even Spurrier admits that "most coaches do not know a whole lot about the other teams" -- but at least you could make an argument for having knowledgeable people directly involved in the competition having a say in the final result (I'm not sure it would be a good argument, but you could make it). If the coaches aren't the ones voting, though ...

Pat Forde at ESPN and Dennis Dodd at CBS both beat me to the punch on this subject, so I'd like to steal some info from Dodd to more accurately demonstrate the problem:
Joe Paterno used to let his SID fill out his ballot. Missouri's Gary Pinkel ranked the nation's only undefeated team (Utah) No. 15 last season. Spurrier himself used to give a sympathy vote in the preseason to Duke, the school that gave him his first head-coaching job.
The worst part is that none of this information is new, surprising or unusual. At this point, I'm not really sure how the coaches' poll could have any less credibility. Between the decision to conceal individual ballots (which was recently delayed because of complaints from the BCS) and the obvious disinterest from some coaches in actually participating, I think we've reached the point where the results are considered so biased and inaccurate that they're simply meaningless. I would advocate for something else along the lines of the Harris Poll, but that's such a bizarre group* of equally biased or uniformed people that I still don't know how exactly it was put together or how the BCS executives think it represents an accurate assessment of college football teams.

I'm not really sure there is a good answer here. Many of the coaches who do fill out their ballots don't take it seriously, and the ones who don't fill out their ballots pass them off to someone with no accountability and no guarantee of knowledge. The whole thing is a sham within a sham system.

The AP poll wasn't perfect by any means, but the fact that it was withdrawn from the BCS because of the conflict of interest shows that the voters understood their role far better than the coaches do.

* Seriously, have you ever looked at a breakdown of Harris Poll voters? The list (the most recent one I can find) includes such college football "experts" as Terry Bradshaw, Boomer Esiason and former San Jose State and Miami Dolphins defensive end Kim Bokamper, who now hosts a Dolphins radio show and owns a sports bar in Miami.

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