NCAA Football Making Final Coaches’ Poll Secret

In the patchwork quilt of subjectivity that makes up the BCS, perhaps the most bizarre aspect is the coaches’ poll. While on one hand, it seems like coaches would be most qualified to judge the merit of one team over another, realistically, there’s no one coach or coaching staff who knows enough about the entire college football landscape to put together a good Top 25 without just pulling a “they’re high in the AP so whatever.”

Stalin Would Have Loved the BCS
(Is a comparison to Stalinist Russia just a little bit over the top? NYET, COMRADE!)

More importantly, the poll’s presence leaves the BCS selection process open to the undue influence of a handful of malicious coaches sandbagging a team out of contention. To that end, the USA TODAY has been publishing final coaches’ polls, eliminating any incentive to do so (unless a hypothetical coach really wants to spend time explaining to ESPN why he put Southern Cal at #22). So hey, glasnost’s working well, right? Great, let’s get rid of it!

In a perplexing move, starting in 2010, the AFCA (American Football Coaches’ Association) is reclassfying its Coaches Poll, even though–ever so shockingly–no coaches are willing to outright endorse secret ballots:

Even [Steve] Spurrier has no problem with revealing his vote.

“I thought that we would stay public on that last vote,” he said. “I sort of think we ought to stay public, you know. It keeps everybody pretty honest.”

Others agreed. Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said that the vote “maybe has a little more validity if it’s not protected, if it’s open.”

Georgia’s Mark Richt supports oversight but not necessarily in the public domain.

“As long as somebody can look at it and make sure there aren’t any wild discrepancies to manipulate that final vote, I can live with it being hidden,” he said.

What’s more, the notion of a “Top 25″ itself is at risk:

As a result of the Gallup World Poll study, the AFCA said it will also consider reducing the number of ranked teams to 10 or 15.

That Gallup World Poll study was commissioned by the AFCA to review all procedures in the poll, but even though Gallup is, according to Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson, “the foremost authority on taking polls,” I think it’s safe to say that changing the rankings from anything other than 25 is straight heresy, homey. Even 24 or 26, we just can’t handle. It has to be 25. HAS TO. WE CAN’T HANDLE THAT KIND OF CHANGE.