Coaches Poll Goes Dark: What Could Go Wrong?

Just when the BCS managed to find itself picking the approximately correct teams for its restricted playoff field, and just when the thing had managed to not radically change its formula for the first time like ever, the coaches poll had to go and screw it up:

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The final regular-season ballots in the USA TODAY Coaches' Poll will no longer be made public beginning with the 2010 football season, the American Football Coaches Association announced Wednesday, a decision that surprised some coaches.
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So you've got a completely anonymous poll that decides who plays for a crystal football and who's eligible for the other big-money games at the end of the year. This poll is compiled by the people who will be participating in the games. This conflict of interest makes Wall Street's relationship with the Fed look sane.

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While AFCA public relations droid Grant Teaff says this will make the poll "the best in can possibly be," citing secret ballots in presidential elections as a precedent, we should listen to the OBC:

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"I thought we would stay public on that last vote, I sort of think we ought to stay public, you know. It keeps everybody pretty honest so I don't know, that was surprising," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
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Even with the publicity, "pretty honest" is still not very honest. The Blue-Gray Sky did a study and found that coaches consistently favored 1) themselves, 2) their opponents, and 3) their conference, even with the threat of public disapproval of their vote.

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Though this is not surprising, it does indicate something bleeding obvious: these people need the threat of a stern column in the local paper, or something. At the very least the public scrutiny required coaches to be somewhat plausible in their votes, lest the BCS lose what little credibility it retains. 

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Now Mack Brown is free to submit a ballot that says "1. Texas, 120. Oklahoma, 2-119. Clowns." Everyone else is free to let the gamesmanship seen in the Blue-Gray Sky study run wild, without a check from the public. I guess if everyone cheats in their own favor just as much as everyone else it'll even out in the long run, unless you're a team from an underrepresented mid-major conference vying for that automatic spot. Then you're out of luck, as per usual.

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At least football can take solace in not having the most screwed up postseason*: baseball just chucked nine teams from the ten-team Big 12 (Colorado and Iowa State don't participate) into their post-season tournament.

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*(I know what you're thinking, but, yes, this turns out to be possible.)

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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