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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Too many flaws in coaches' poll means it should be dropped

The traditional belief is that the people with the best understanding and expertise in an area should be viewed as the top authorities on most matters in the field. That belief also often extends to giving those individuals more control over said field, since they should know it the better than most observers.


When it comes to college football, that belief should go out the window.

The USA Today Football Coaches Poll must, at the very least, be taken out of the BCS equations and should probably be abolished. It simply is a poor way to rank college football teams since the participants are nowhere near unbiased and don't have the time to understand the full landscape of college football.

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There are a whole slew of issues with polls, including voters who consider a win over an FCS squad more impressive than a close loss to a good team and coaches who have their staff fill out their ballots (Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno have both suffered gaffs for doing this). Two reasons, however, stand above the rest.

First, coaches' success is intimately tied to that poll. It feeds into the BCS, it decides which teams go to top bowls. Coaches have incentive to overrate their own teams, overrate teams they played (it makes their teams look better) and give the benefit of the doubt to teams from their conference or ones coached by friends (this last one is just human nature).

In fact, it would serve the coach best to rate his own team first in the country and the 11 or 12 teams he plays in the top 15.

Beyond that, coaches don't have the chance to watch most football games because, not surprisingly, they work Saturdays.

If a game starts at 11 a.m. the coach won't be able to leave the stadium until three or four o'clock in the afternoon, assuming he does not do any work after the game. That means not seeing much of what happens on a football Saturday.

If the game starts at 2:30 p.m. or later, a coach would not be watching games before his team played (he'd be too busy, you know, preparing), and would only be able to watch a few of the late games after.

Does this sound like the amount of knowledge necessary to compile the rankings that directly affect who plays in BCS bowl games?

Some would argue that since coaches know so much more about the inner workings of a game, that they would have the better understanding of which teams are truly better. This ignores the fact that coaches are paid to have only a deep knowledge of their team and the teams they play.

Does anyone honestly think Rich Rodriguez (who does have a coaches poll ballot) spends any time breaking down Cal and LSU to decide which to vote higher? Hell no. He probably spent time after the game breaking down film of his guys against Notre Dame and started taking a look at Eastern Michigan.

By the end of the year he will know 14 teams (his, 12 regular season opponents, one bowl opponent) very, very well, but that won't really make him an expert on who the top 25 teams in the country are.

Interestingly, this also means that the majority of writers who vote in the AP poll shouldn't have a vote that counts either (their votes don't count now, but they do influence some other ballots). They also work on Saturdays, and during games they are coming up with story ideas about the teams in front of them, not closely tracking contests across the country.

Writers get to games an hour early and spend around six or seven hours in the press box, not counting the transit time to get to and from the stadium.

If there must be a voting system that ranks the top 25 and has an effect on the BCS, it needs to be in the hands of national writers, who aren't in the press box on Saturdays, and focus on the majority of important games, not just the ones they go to. Ironically, this makes someone like Lou Holtz in perfect position to rank teams (minus the Notre Dame homerism of course) since he has to keep up with the important games all Saturday.

It may seem illogical to wrest influence from the people who have the most intimate knowledge of college football, but ranking the top 25 requires taking the broad view. After a long day of work, most people couldn't analyze the weekly shifts in their industries. Why should we expect coaches to do it?


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