USA Today Coaches' Poll: The True Fallacy Is the AFCA's Belief in the Poll

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 17, 2012

July 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott speaks to the media at PAC-12 Media Day at Universal Studios Hollywood. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The Coaches' Poll has been in the news more this week than when they officially announced their preseason rankings.

First, it was Lane Kiffin and the entire ordeal surrounding him saying he wouldn't vote USC No. 1 but actually voting them in top spot. Then came the fall out, where Kiffin decided to give up his vote in the poll. Next came USC being appalled at USA Today and the AFCA for somehow leaking Kiffin's vote to the media from what was expected to be a confidential vote.

As we said this week, Lane Kiffin did what every coach ought to do, get rid of the vote, even if he arrived at the decision by embarrassing means. Larry Scott echoed that sentiment, calling the poll a fallacy, as reported by ESPN.

"I think it's an unfair position to put the coaches in, to supposedly vote objectively when they've got a very natural conflict of interest, No. 1, and, No. 2, I think most coaches are focused on their own games -- let alone breaking down tape afterwards and all that," Scott said. "So to expect that coaches could have a good, balanced, well-researched perspective on who the best teams are in any given week is a fallacy."

Larry Scott is spot and he's got an opinion that we most fully support. Not only is the commissioner hitting a home run with his media deals, he actually understands why the Coaches' Poll is a joke.

However, everyone doesn't see it that way. Especially not the AFCA, the folks who have administered the poll since its inception in 1950. In a video with, AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff makes an effort to stand up for the poll. 

In listening to his rhetoric there are two clear points that are most certainly head scratchers:

"It is an insult to our coaches to say that they can't do it"

"We should keep all votes confidential because that is the best way to get the most accurate polling because that's the way Gallup does it"

For one thing, coaches don't need Grant Teaff, or anyone else, standing up for them. They're the ones who tell us they only focus on their next opponent. They don't look ahead. They don't read the newspapers. They don't watch ESPN. They spend 20 hours a day working on their own game plan.

That's what coaches tell us. So it isn't an insult to believe that they don't have the time to watch every other team play. It is merely a fact.

Secondly, for those of you not aware, Gallup is one of the world's most respected and trusted polling entities. They do conduct their polls confidentially, in an effort to get straight-line results. Teaff is not incorrect on that point.

However, what Teaff does not point out is that there is a tremendous chasm between what Gallup does in their polls, and what the AFCA is asking the coaches to do in the USA Today Coaches' Poll.

Gallup is getting opinions on issues; healthcare, presidents, political talking points and the like. The Coaches' Poll is attempting to rank teams 1-25 as the best in the country and, unlike Gallup, it actually counts in the final decision.

This isn't just an apples to oranges comparison; this is an apples to orangutan parallel that Teaff is attempting to draw. Gallup polls don't need transparency. They rely on a wide sample size to get a "general feel" from the public about an issue. The Coaches' Poll relies on a pool of 59 voters to get a very specific designation on 25 teams in order to use the results as a third of the championship picture.

That does not even include the incentive coaches have to rank their team, league or friends highly. Teaff references how not ranking in-state teams could affect donors; what he doesn't reference is the bonuses coaches have tied to final finishing spot or the cash schools rake in for one of their highly-ranked conference-mates getting that extra BCS bid.

If Grant Teaff and others have bought into this idea that the Coaches' Poll is a legitimate, accurate practice in slotting teams, then he, and they, have bought into the fallacy. It's a joke, and the quicker it gets out of college football, the better.