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Berry Tramel

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Why does the coaches poll still exist?

by Berry Tramel Published: August 1, 2014

OU's Chuka Ndulue jumps atop teammate Geneo Grissom after his late touchdown sealed the Sooners' 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama last January. Bama and OU are ranked 2-3 in the preseason coaches poll. (Photo by Chris Landsberger)
OU's Chuka Ndulue jumps atop teammate Geneo Grissom after his late touchdown sealed the Sooners' 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama last January. Bama and OU are ranked 2-3 in the preseason coaches poll. (Photo by Chris Landsberger)

The coaches poll is out — Florida State No. 1, followed by Alabama, OU, Oregon and Auburn — and just in time to beat the August rush. The poll was released Thursday, with a date of July 31.

It’s exciting for everyone. But I have a question. Why do we need a coaches poll anymore? I mean, when The Associated Press asked its poll to be pulled out of the BCS formula several years ago, the need for the AP poll withered, but at least it was traditional. And heck, it even had autonomy. With the BCS being a two-team playoff, the possibility existed that the AP could declare a national champion who wasn’t in the BCS title game.

But the coaches poll? The coaches poll isn’t much into tradition. The goofy UPI poll, voted upon by coaches, still was declaring national champs before the bowl games as recently as 1970.

And the coaches poll was obviously the inferior poll. While Bob Stoops is right that everyone has their biases, the coaches’ bias is clearly more potent than the media’s bias. Here’s how you tell. The coaches poll historically has had a corrective swing to it. Coaches will vote one way, take a look at the AP poll the next day and by the next week will make adjustments based on what they saw in the AP. Happens all the time.

But here’s the silliest thing about the coaches poll still existing. Many in power in college football have decried the existent of preseason polls for decades. Why have preseason polls? Wait until a decent chunk of the season plays out, then get into the polling business.

Preseason polls live because fans enjoy them. The debates. The prognosis. All kinds of reasons.

But now that all of the polls have lost their clout, what is their purpose? The coaches did have a hand in selecting the teams for the two-team playoff. Now their votes have no say in selecting the teams for the four-team playoff.

The coaches poll is for amusement only. Yet those coaches, who are central to college football power, continue to put out a preseason poll that conceivably could sway public sentiment on teams — including the football committee that will bracket the playoff.

Doesn’t that strike you as odd? For years, critics have said a preseason poll, based on nothing but speculation and the previous season’s results, creates a hierarchy of teams. Michigan State starts out well ahead of Oregon State, and it’s hard for the Beavers to make up that ground.

Shouldn’t coaches steer clear of creating bias? Heck, I don’t think the committee ought to put out rankings in mid-season, as is their plan. Basketball doesn’t do that. I don’t know why football should, other than for hype. The committee ought to be above the hype.

And so should the coaches. Their poll has been rendered moot. It would be a fine time for the coaches to get out of the voting business, starting with their preseason poll.

 

 

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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