Below are all of the end-of-season reports Pollspeak delivers to the governing bodies of the various polls:
Biggest Stories of the Season
USA Today Refuses to Release Final Coaches' Ballots (posted 1/10/08)
Pollspeak asked the USA Today when they would be releasing the ballots for their final football poll. The answer is...they're not. Here was their response:
"the coaches' ballots submitted after the bowls games will not be released. our agreement with the coaches' association only extends to the final regular-season ballot in football."
Needless to say, this is yet another accountability problem that should be fixed in the future, and it will be addressed in our season-end report to the USA Today and the BCS. Comments? Discuss on the FORUMS.
Worst Voter of the Year - Football 2007 --
Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News (posted 1/17/08)
Jon Wilner is our inaugural Worst Voter of the Year. Pollspeak debated various methods for choosing: open votes or heated internal debates with people arguing over things like standard deviation and hurling words like "inept" or "prejudice" across the boardroom like weapons. However, in the end, we determined that all the information necessary to make the decision had already been gathered over the course of the season. So we agreed on a simple point system:
- Worst Voter of the Week = 1 point
- DIS-Honorable Mention = 1/2 point
Ties would be broken by counting negative mentions in the Quick Hits section. (Not all Quick Hits are negative.) However, there would be no tie this year. This method is a bit predictable and isn't nearly as exciting as the other methods, but our Worst Voter of the Year won by such a convincing margin, there was no need for drama.
Not only was Wilner the points leader (see below), but he also took Worst Voter of the Week an unprecedented three weeks straight (weeks 13-15). His only DIS-Honorable Mention came in week 12, and his first Worst Voter of the Week was in week 10. So out of the 10 weeks that Pollspeak awarded dubious honors, Wilner was singled out in half. The competition really didn't stand a chance.
Ironically, Wilner's final ballot in week 16, was one of his least concerning. Maybe he sensed that he was dangerously close to locking up Worst Voter of the Year and tried to avoid the distinction. Or maybe Pollspeak has helped educate him. Or maybe it is a coincidence. In any case, Wilner will top our recommendation list for removal from the AP Poll in our coming report to the AP. If the AP decides to include Wilner next year, we hope he takes greater care with the responsibility vested in him, and he moves forward knowing that we are now paying attention.
|Adam Van Brimmer
The Coaches' Perspective (posted 12/12/07)
Since this is the first time we get to see the Coaches' ballots all season, this column will be a bit different. The Coaches' Perspective is part analysis and a large part opinion and guess-work. It is generally accepted that coaches are going to be biased when they fill out their ballots. After all, they have a vested interest in how the polls turn out. Besides, the polls are secret for all but the last week, so who would ever know? In fact, if coaches aren't biased, fans could argue that they aren't doing their job as coach. A better argument is: why would you let the most inherently biased group of people vote in a poll with so much at stake...let alone secretly? It's like having the prisoners run the parole board.
This column will focus on the Coaches' Poll we have today, point out some of those alleged biases and give opinions why they exist. In many cases these will just be educated guesses supported by circumstantial evidence. We can't really know what goes on in the minds of the coaches...or in some cases, the assistants who may or may not actually fill out their ballots for them. There is also the very real possibility that there are no ulterior motives in the following votes, and our suspicions are purely coincidental.
Let’s start by looking at the five most extreme coaches according to Pollstalker:
1) Howard Schnellenberger -- FAU's only BCS top-25 opponent is USF, but The Bulls aren't one of his extreme votes. Unlike Kansas, who he has highest in the nation at #2. Most of the other coaches voting Kansas nearly that high are in the Big 12. Schnellenberger briefly coached at Oklahoma and can't have fond memories of his infamous stint in the Big 12. Ah, there is a pattern – Schnellenberger ranks every Big-12 team (Kansas - #2, Missouri - #4, Texas - #14) in the highest 10%...except for Oklahoma, which he ranks in the bottom 10% (#7). It seems he doesn’t have an issue with the Big 12…just Oklahoma.
Schnellenberger also ranks Florida lowest in the nation at #21. This might be due to the Gators running up the score on FAU this year, 59-20. A ranking of #21 certainly isn't a sign of respect for the drubbing. Less likely, maybe Schnellenberger still holds a grudge against the Gators for handing his 1983 National Champion, Miami Hurricanes their only loss that season.
As for his five other extreme votes...theories welcome on the forums.
2) Bobby Bowden – voted West Virginia highest. As anybody who has seen "We Are Marshall" knows, Bowden coached West Virginia (1970-1975) before FSU. Also, FSU recently hired offensive line-coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia, and Offensive Coordinator/Head-Coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher was born and raised in West Virginia…so there are plenty of ties to West Virginia on the staff.
Bowden voted Oklahoma lowest in the nation at #10. Oklahoma is one of the few traditional powerhouses Bowden has played but never beaten. He lost to the Sooners during the regular season in 1976 and lost all three Orange Bowls with them at the end of the 1979, 1980 and 2000 seasons. Additionally, the head Coach of Oklahoma, Bob Stoops, ran the Florida defense for the Gators' first national championship win over FSU in the 1996 Sugar Bowl. Bowden certainly has no love lost for the Sooners.
Bowden ranks Clemson highest in the nation at #11. Clemson is coached by his son, Tommy Bowden. Even Tommy couldn’t rank his own team that high (#14)…although that is the Tiger’s second highest ranking next to his dad’s.
Bobby Bowden generally ranks his ACC brethren higher than most voters nationally. He’s not as conference-biased as some others, but he is the only coach to give Wake Forest a vote (#22). The Demon Deacons have beaten FSU two years running.
Only one person ranked Penn State higher than Bowden, and it is well known that Joe Paterno and Bowden are long time friends and mutual admirers.
Bowden ranks South Florida highest at #17. The obvious reason might be that Bowden is just trying to help another Florida school make its mark. While USF could be seen as competition, Bowden is known for helping the underdog. However, there is another connection. FSU receivers coach and alumnus Lawrence Dawsey just returned to FSU from…USF. On that note, prior to that, Dawsey worked at LSU, Bowden’s #1 team. Although LSU has an even stronger tie with Jimbo Fisher, whose last job was Offensive Coordinator for LSU. Is there a chance that Bowden’s staff is somehow having an influence on his ballot?
Why would Bowden vote Illinois lowest (#18)? Fighting Illini head coach, Ron Zook was the coach at Florida for three years, but there was no public animosity between the two. Then again Zook did beat Bowden in his last game as a Gator.
Bowden was also one of four coaches not to rank Tennessee. Tennessee beat FSU in the 1998 National Championship game played at the Fiesta Bowl. That’s enough…we should move on.
3) Dennis Franchione – Texas A&M’s ex-coach was 5-0 against Hawaii as the head coach of New Mexico and TCU. It seems a lack of respect may have carried over to this year’s ballot, ranking the Warriors lowest at #22.
Otherwise there aren’t many obvious biases on his ballot. Franchione shows no particular bias towards the Big 12...in fact, maybe a slight bias AGAINST the Big 12 South. Texas at #20 and Oklahoma at #6 are both in the lower range nationally, but much lower than you would expect from a Big 12 coach. We can only guess that since Franchione was ousted by the Aggies (technically he retired), he doesn't have to play politics any more. In fact, based on his ballot, he might be planning a move to the ACC, Big East or Pac-10. USA Today should note that a more unbiased poll than the current Coaches’ Poll might be "The Recently Ousted Coaches’ Poll."
4) Mark Dantonio of Michigan State shows the typical conference bias you would expect -- Ohio State #1, Illinois #9, Wisconsin #14, Penn State #23. With the exception of Wisconsin the rest are either on or near the extreme high, and only 3 people voted higher for Wisconsin. No surprises there.
His ranking of Missouri (#12) and Kansas (#13) lowest in the nation is surprising, though. Dantonio was Kansas’ secondary coach under Glen Mason from 1991-1994. Maybe there are still some hard feelings towards the Jayhawks and possibly Missouri who he beat 3 out of 4 of those years, too.
Dantonio’s last team, Cincinnati might be feeling burnt by their ex-coach’s #25 ranking. 49 of the 60 coaches ranked the Bearcats higher.
As for Air Force’s highest ranking at #22…feel free to discuss theories on the forums. Could he have family in the service?
5) Bill Doba, the recently fired coach of Washington State also shows the typical conference bias -- USC highest (#2), Arizona State highest (#7), Oregon State highest (#20). He could have joined Oregon coach, Mike Bellotti and six others in ranking Oregon, but maybe he didn’t appreciate this year’s 53-7 pounding by the Ducks, which was the Cougars worst loss of the season. Otherwise, this is Pac-10 bias to the extreme. He was fired on November 26th, before these ballots were turned in. So is it possible the ballot was completed by somebody else? Or maybe it just didn’t affect his attitude towards his competition.
He also ranks Clemson lowest in the nation at #21. This is a stretch, but Doba was defensive coordinator at The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina) in 1987-88. In 1988, The Citadel made it to the I-AA national playoffs, but were shut out earlier that year by Clemson 24 – 0. We seriously doubt he has had an axe to grind with Clemson all these years, but since there is no historical record of ballots for us to check, who knows? Also, who knows what other biases head coaches or assistant coaches harbor that no reasonable amount of research would uncover.
Doba is also one of two coaches to leave either Wisconsin or Texas unranked (he leaves both off). No serious guesses here. Of course, if the ballot was filled out by a replacement after Doba was fired, then we don't even know whose biases we’re dealing with. Pollspeak has contacted both the Washington State and Texas A&M athletic departments to see how ballots were handled after their coaches departed. As of this writing, there was no comment from Washington State. Texas A&M responded: "Coach Franchione has done his own voting the entire time and will finish this year after the bowls are finished."
(UPDATE 12/13/07: Washington State responded: "Coach Doba did fill out the final ballot.")
Those are just the first five coaches we looked at. We have neither the time nor space to make those connections for every coach. However, here are some more quick highlights:
- Half of Oklahoma’s #1 votes came from their head coach, Bob Stoops. Stoops also gave LSU their lowest ranking (#6) behind Big 12 members Missouri (#3) and Kansas (#4). You can’t blame him for trying to reach the national championship game (but you can blame the BCS).
- By contrast, only two of LSU’s 11 first-place votes came from SEC schools. One of those was Les Miles himself. Miles also gave Arkansas and Auburn their highest rankings, Tennessee and Florida their second-highest rankings, and Georgia a respectable #3 ranking (but not so close to affect LSU’s trip to the title game…just in case.)
- While Tyrone Willingham (Washington) was at Notre Dame, he lost to Boston College all three years. Coincidentally he is the only coach to leave the Eagles off of his ballot.
- Michigan was only ranked by six coaches. Five of them were Big Ten coaches and the other was Michigan alum, Les Miles.
- Tommy Bowden, Howard Schnellenberger, Mike Bellotti and Bobby Bowden were the only coaches to vote Missouri ahead of Oklahoma. Talk about breaking rule #1! These teams have the same record, and the Sooners beat the Tigers TWICE this year.
- Art Briles, Houston’s ex-coach – cast the only vote for Houston (#23).
- George O’Leary of UCF gives his own team its highest ranking of #17.
- Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer gave the Hokies their highest ranking of #2.
- Hawaii’s only #1 vote came from fellow WAC coach, Hal Mumme of New Mexico State.
- Illinois’ highest ranking of #9 came from three Big Ten coaches: Bret Bielema (Wisconsin), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Ron Zook (Illinois).
- Wisconsin’s highest ranking of #13 came from Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, and seemingly unbiased picks from Texas Tech’s Mike Leach and Southern Mississippi’s Jeff Bower.
One of the most unbiased coaches is Texas’ Mack Brown. Texas finished #17 in the Coaches’ Poll, which is exactly how Brown voted them. Every other coach with a vote and a team in the top 25 voted their team higher than the final poll. Well, one exception is Jim Tressel who voted Ohio State #1, but you can’t call that an act of modesty. Mack Brown also had no votes on the extreme, and shows negligible Big 12 bias. So he is actually Good Voter of the Week-worthy. However, this is the Coaches’ Poll. So our question to Coach Brown is…Why bother? Nobody is trying to hold you to a higher standard, and you can only hurt your own team or conference by voting without bias. Even Pollspeak wouldn’t ask this of you.
We would ask the BCS to remove such an inherently biased poll from the formula. Alternatively, the Coaches’ Poll could be modified to disallow voting for any team from your conference (including your own team). Although this could cause issues with the number of votes cast. Also, while exploitation is still possible by downgrading your nearest competition, it wouldn’t be as damaging as the current system. Aside from making all ballots public, which should be a requirement of all BCS polls, our favorite option, is to convince the NCAA to include a Biased Vote Infraction into the football rulebook, resulting in a 15-yard penalty on the coach’s next kick off…even if he changes schools. Maybe that will help hold coaches’ personally accountable.
We can't point out every instance of alleged bias in the Coaches' Poll, but with just some basic research, we think we've pointed out many of the TYPES of bias:
- Own Team
- Poll Competition
- Past Jobs
- Bad Sportsmanship/Revenge
Biases exist in all polls, but the Coaches' Poll seems particularly susceptible to bias due to the voters' vested interest in the results and the close relationships within the coaching fraternity. The goal of this article is not to put coaches in the spotlight. It is to the put the Coaches' Poll in the spotlight and hope steps are taken to fix the inherent problems with using such a poll in the BCS.
This article may be freely distributed, as long as credit and a link are given to Pollspeak.com
The Harris Interactive Poll - What You Don’t Know (posted 12/19/07)
We’re going to shy away from the typical Bad/Good Voter premise with the Harris Interactive Poll. Most of our readers have gotten comfortable with Pollstalker by now and can tell for themselves who the most extreme voter is, etc. (Okay, it’s Bobby Aillet). Instead, we’ll point out some of the differences between this poll and the others. We can’t guarantee that you don’t know these things already, but if you do know, please tell us what happened to the missing ballots.
The first, and most obvious, difference is that Harris Interactive is the largest of the polls. With 114 voters, it nearly doubles the Coaches' Poll and dwarfs everything Pollspeak has covered to date:
- AP – 65 voters
- Coaches – 60 voters
- Men’s Basketball – 72 voters
- Women’s Basketball – 50 voters
However, not so obvious, is that all 114 voters don’t have to vote each week. 114 ballots were counted in weeks 15 and 14, but week 13 only had 113 voters. Week 11 only had 112 voters. In all, seven ballots have gone missing during the 11 weeks Harris has been polling this season. The missing votes could be from seven individual voters, or some voters may have neglected to vote multiple times. Since the ballots are secret, we have no idea. We contacted Harris Interactive about this discrepancy. We asked them how many ballots per week are allowed to go missing, and what happens when voters don’t turn in ballots? Unfortunately their only response so far has been: “I would refer you to the December 2 documents that are on the Harris Interactive website (http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/bcspoll.asp); these document indicate that all 114 Harris Poll voters submitted their rankings on Sunday, Dec 2nd.” The Harris Interactive Poll is the only poll that has allowed missing ballots so far. Neither the AP nor Coaches’ Poll had a different number of voters on any given week.
Another difference with the Harris Interactive poll is that it is made up of a lot of retired people. There are some current media members, but for the most part the poll is made up of former players, former coaches, former media and former college administrators. With all of these retirees, it makes sense that the Harris Interactive Poll might have the oldest voters of any poll. Previously we had assumed that the Coaches’ Poll might have the oldest voters. So we did some research.
We were able to easily look up the ages of 40 of the 114 voters in the Harris Poll. We would like more data, but this is still a good representative sample. The average age of those 40 voters is 63 years old. The Coaches average age (with 58 of 60 voters checked) was 53 years old. As for the AP, we couldn’t find enough for a representative sample, but suffice to say, they are likely the youngest group. Some seem to have just graduated from college, and since the AP Poll is only made up of current media, it makes sense that they would be younger than the retirees. So the average age of Harris voters is a full 10 years older than that of the coaches, and likely much older on average than the AP voters.
Does age really matter? It shouldn’t. We are not saying that there should be any type of age limitations placed on voters. Nor are we saying that any one age group votes BETTER than any other age group. However, it is worth noting demographic differences between the polls. If different polls seem to display certain trends, age could be one factor. Perhaps an older generation voter might give more respect to traditional powerhouses than someone from a younger generation. Not that these are definitive examples, but USC was ranked highest (#5) in Harris and #6 in the other two polls. Also, Navy’s only two votes came from the Harris Poll. Again, by no means is this proof of any bias by age, but this is a trend well worth noting and tracking over the years.
While on the topic of age, here is a quick call back to the Coaches’ Poll. It might just be coincidence, but the two oldest voters in the Coaches Poll (Howard Schnellenberger -– 73 and Bobby Bowden -- 78) also happen to be the two most extreme voters according to Pollstalker.
For what it’s worth, the oldest voter we uncovered in the Harris Interactive Poll was Bill Arnsparger, who is 81 and served various coaching stints with Ohio State, Kentucky, Tulane, LSU and the NFL. However, there is a good chance that the Harris Interactive Poll's most extreme voter, Bobby Aillet, is actually older. Unfortunately, our research could not confirm his birth date, but he was captain of the Louisiana Tech football team in 1945, which would likely make him 80 years or older.