Just a bit of a follow-up here on the BCS/Associated Press poll discussion below (sorry, folks, but until Steve gets
off his ass healthy, you’re stuck with me and my college football obsessions).
Since last week’s final polls and the ensuing hullabaloos, there’ve been some encouraging signs regarding the future of the college football polls. One paper, the Charlotte Observer, has announced that it is resigning from the AP writer’s poll:
The credibility of this newspaper is more important than the prestige of voting in the AP poll. [Observer writer Ken] Tysiac will complete this season, the last in which a reporter from the Observer will vote in a poll tied to the BCS.
The AP basketball poll? We don’t have a vote this season, but we would consider voting in the future. That poll is for fun and to drive fan interest, and it’s basically meaningless because the NCAA basketball champion is determined in a playoff.
Now that’s a responsible, and long-overdue decision. While no other papers have followed the Observer’s lead to date, a growing number of sports writers have noted their own discomfort with the conflicted and arbitrary nature of the media polls: Carey Estes of the Birmingham Post-Herald (scroll down) notes,
For the past few weeks, many members of the media — myself included — have trashed the mad-scientist formula known as the Bowl Championship Series, a system that fails miserably in its attempt to produce an undisputed college football national champion.
Strangely, however, there has been little media outrage over the media’s role in all this BCS B.S. Namely, that newspaper reporters and other media members vote in the Associated Press college-football poll, which is one of the components used to determine the BCS rankings.
This means that journalists, who are supposed to be nothing more than objective observers and reporters of events, have now crossed over and become actual factors in how these events play out. We are now part of the game.
Why does this not seem to bother the journalistic community?
I work around these guys. Most of them are far from being in any sort of athletic shape. Some have a hard time completing the 40-foot dash to the pregame buffet. It should be an insult to every hard-working college football player that this motley collection of Oscar Madisons has any influence on championship and bowl matchups.
But we do. A few reporters bump up Texas in the polls, for whatever reason, and suddenly the Longhorns are headed to the Rose Bowl in place of California. I’m not saying Cal is more deserving of a Rose Bowl trip than Texas. I’m saying it is not the place of the media to help make such a decision at all.
You don’t see Dumpy Inkstain from the Omaha Daily-Fishwrap sitting in with the selection committee to determine who makes the field of 65 for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. So why should he, or any of us who don’t play the game, be able to so significantly impact the football postseason?
That was never meant to be our task. And it shouldn’t be any more. Because as long as the media persist in playing a part in the BCS process, then there is no need for anybody to pay attention to the media’s complaints about the BCS.
Mike Vaccarro of the New York Post chimes in with,
This has to end, of course. That much is clear. We can’t make the news and cover the news. We can’t complain that systems are flawed when we’re part of that system. It has to end.
Do away with the writers poll. And that includes the radio and TV sycophants who would gladly snatch a writer’s ballot before it hits the ground. Sorry, if we’re going to be allowed to rip the coach in Sunday’s newspapers, we shouldn’t be allowed to vote that coach’s team out of the Top 25 on Monday, too.
There’s plenty more, from Loren Nelson of the Bradenton Herald and Chris Lang of the Arizona Daily Sun, and no doubt a few others that I’ve missed.
All of these guys make it a point to single out the Huntsville Times’ Paul Gattis as an innocent victim of the BCS system’s whims. I disagree with them on that, (although their point about the writers’ public votes being unjustly subject to more heat than the secret coaches’ poll is more than fair), but the ridiculousness of holding a popularity contest to determine bowl matchups and even “championships” is finally, finally being seriously debated, and that’s the best news that college football has seen in many a moon.
Now, sports media, is your chance to do the right thing: abolish the polls, unilaterally. Shame the conferences and the schools into ditching this archaic and corrupt system in favor of a playoff. You’ll be doing yourselves a favor, and the sport an invaulable service.
UPDATE: As noted above, there’s no reason to single out the writers’ poll; the coaches are at least as ridiculous, and have worked out a system to avoid public records laws regarding written communication:
In response to the AJC’s public records request, American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff sent a memo informing the group’s 61 member voters they weren’t legally obligated to share their votes.
The Dec. 2 memo, labeled “Important & Confidential” and obtained by the AJC, stated: “The standard method of collecting the votes by USA TODAY is for coaches to phone in their weekly votes via voice mail; therefore, formal records by coaches are unlikely to be kept.”
Teaff, reached Monday at his office in Waco, Texas, said he’d “never heard” of a coach voting by e-mail or fax, documentation that would make ballots available under public records laws in many states.
There’s one word for this: outrageous.