It’s time for one of my favorite annual traditions: the unveiling of the final college football coaches’ poll.
For those who don’t know, college football uses votes by the coaches — who are biased, have friends in the coaching business and don’t exactly spend Saturdays flipping channels to watch games — to help determine who plays in the national title game.
It’s even dumber than it sounds, possibly the most idiotic tradition in sports aside from baseball managers wearing uniforms. (The image of Charlie Manuel striding to the mound during the World Series in tight baseball pants remains etched in my brain.)
But before we begin, let’s give a round of applause to the Harris Interactive Poll voters, who made a valiant effort all season to out-moron the coaches. Reading the “others receiving votes” part of the Harris poll was a nonstop source of comedy for the entire season. LSU, on a four-game SEC losing streak, is still receiving votes. Tennessee received a vote in Week 5, which was tremendous.
And then there was a bizarre exchange between Berry Tramel, outstanding writer for The Oklahoman, and Harris Poll voter Pat Quinn two weeks ago in the Oklahoma State press box. Tramel, who described the conversation on the newspaper’s Web site, asked Quinn how he would rank Oklahoma and Texas if the Sooners beat Oklahoma State.
Quinn: Oh, I don’t know. Doesn’t really matter.
Quinn: I think Alabama and Penn State will probably play for the national championship.
Tramel: (Brain explodes)
Quinn: They’re the only undefeated teams, aren’t they?
Tramel: Penn State has a loss.
Quinn: Oh, well, those Big Ten teams have a lot of votes.
(Note: This ripping of the Harris poll voters does not include our own David Paschall, who is brilliant like a thousand suns.)
Anyway, the coaches’ poll is surprisingly devoid of the nonsense we saw last year. Last year brought us all the Big Ten coaches voting Ohio State No. 1, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ranking three Big 12 teams in the top four, Hal Mumme ranking Hawaii No. 1 and Howard Schnellenberger putting Missouri ahead of Oklahoma. The Sooners beat Missouri twice last year.
There are some gems this year, but my main problem is this: Coaches don’t watch games outside of their conference. I get on several conference calls with coaches to hear them talk about their bowl selection. Among the coaches who have a vote in the poll, I have heard the following about their opponent:
“I haven’t seen them play.”
“We’ll get our first look next week.”
“I don’t know much about them.”
“My sports information director does the voting, so it doesn’t matter if I haven’t seen them.” (OK, I made this one up, but I know for a fact this happens at several schools.)
The other problem is conference bias. Let’s take a look at some of the voting patterns:
* Five of the seven Big 12 coaches with votes ranked Oklahoma No. 1. Mack Brown, not surprisingly, ranked Florida first and his own team, Texas, second. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach voted his own team second, the only coach in America to rank the Red Raiders that high.
* Five of the six SEC coaches with votes ranked Florida first. The only coach who didn’t, Steve Spurrier, is close friends with Stoops and voted Oklahoma first. Mark Richt actually ranked Florida first and Alabama second.
* Other nonsense: Washington coach Tyrone Willingham’s ballot reflected his season. He voted Missouri (5-4 in the Big 12) No. 11, one spot behind Texas Tech. Missouri fell to Kansas in the regular-season finale and lost by 41 in the conference championship game.
* Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema ranked Alabama, which lost only to the team favored to win the national title, seventh.
* Missouri’s Gary Pinkel does not respect the non-BCS school. He ranked undefeated Utah and Boise State 15th and 16th.
And this poll, with all of its bias, is here to stay.
“We have not considered a poll of former coaches replacing the current coaches’ poll,” BCS chairman John Swofford said Sunday.
Oh, well. But if they do make a change, please let the new voters know when Penn State loses a game