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In BCS/Harris voting, Jason, Jason WAS your man ...
Aug. 24, 2005
By Dennis Dodd
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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In the space of an afternoon, Jason Rash went from celebrity to BCS historical footnote.
Rash, an executive for an Atlanta, Ga., masonry company, resigned from the Harris Interactive Poll on Tuesday afternoon citing notoriety stemming from his participation.
Rash is the son-in-law of Troy University coach Larry Blakeney, who nominated him to the Harris Poll. The poll will be used to help determine the standings in the lucrative Bowl Championship Series.
Rash is believed to be on one of four voters who resigned Tuesday. Former coaches Lou Holtz and Gerry DiNardo, as well as former Pittsburgh quarterback John Congemi, quit the Harris Poll. Their reasons weren't immediately clear.
"Obviously, it was causing more of a stir than it was worth," said Rash, president of Georgia Masonry Supply.
If he stayed, Rash would have been the only fan involved in the polling process. The 33-year-old never played coached or covered football, unlike the other 113 voters in the poll. The conference that nominated him for Harris, had a bigger problem with his relationship to Blakeney, also a Harris voter.
"We may not want to admit but it's bigger than the commissioners and the former players," Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters said. "If there is a knowledgeable fan out there, I'm good to go with it. Our criteria (for nominees) was being 'knowledgeable' of I-A. The son-in-law issue we were not aware of."
Rash said he decided to resign to after getting calls from media outlets about his unique -- and for a while historic -- relationship with the poll. Late Tuesday afternoon, he called Blakeney and told him he no longer wanted to participate.
"There's people that really care about college football, then there's the politics of it," Rash said. "It's no big deal to me. I have plenty of other golfing opportunities to take advantage of on Sunday."
The Boston Globe first reported Rash's situation on Tuesday. CBS SportsLine.com then reached both Blakeney and Rash for comment in a story that ran on the site Tuesday afternoon.
"I might be wrong to do what I did," Blakeney told SportsLine.com The Troy coach nominated Rash for the poll through the Sun Belt.
"(But) I did it because I knew he'd be credible and accountable."
In terms of poll history, it was not exactly Dewey beating Truman. It was more like The Truman Show, an everyman becoming a part of the media circus. Joining Hall of Famers, Pro Bowlers and coaching legends in the Harris poll was the president of Georgia Masonry Supply.
Rash is married to Blakeney's daughter Tiffany. He played basketball in high school and attended Suwanee (Ga.) College. Slip a couch under his backside and a beer in his palm on Saturdays, and he's lot like you and me.
He is just not what you'd expect of a typical poll voter. They all have some sort of formal relationship with the game. There's 65 media (AP), 62 coaches and the Harris mix of 113 media, former coaches, players and administrators.
Plus, for a while, one man of the people.
"I'm a serious football fan, that's all I can tell you," Rash said. "You've got to follow it, you've got to understand what's going on. I've been witness to some of the other coaches' polls. Some of the coaches don't take that very seriously."
Which begged the question of whether Rash could be objective. Not that anyone know if he was voting Troy No. 5 each week. Like the coaches poll, Harris ballots will be kept secret during the season unless released by individual voters themselves.
"I wish my father-in-law's team (were at the top 25 level), so that I could cast a vote for him," Rash said.
The issue was how Rash somehow got into the circus despite not having the qualifications for nomination laid out by the BCS. It asked conferences to submit only Harris nominees who were former players, coaches or administrators.
"This one here, I don't think it fits that criteria," said BCS spokesman Bob Burda. "We did not do background checks, nor did Harris. We asked the conference to provide background information on nominees. We had background on some but not all."
One check of Troy's media guide is all the BCS needed.
"His name is listed in my bio," Blakeney said.
The Harris controversy didn't stop with Rash.
There are no women among the 114, although some were nominated according to a Harris spokesman. Harris' selection process was random.
While participants in the coaches poll might vote their team at unethically high levels, there is a different objectivity question in the Harris. Will the likes of former coach Larry Smith dismiss the teams that fired him -- USC and Missouri?
Voter Gene Bartow is best known as a basketball coach (at UCLA, among others). He is the former athletic director at UAB.
Kevin Duhe currently is territory manager for Blue Bell Ice Cream. He played at Northeast Louisiana.
Brenston Buckner is on the Carolina Panthers active roster. That might have an impact on his ability to vote -- or his playing time if Buckner spends too much time considering ballot. NFL teams typically travel to road games on Saturday and play on Sundays.
Former SMU quarterback Lance McIlhenny was quoted in the Dallas Morning News as saying: "Any given weekend, if I'm fly-fishing, how am I going to make sure by 1 o'clock on Sunday that this Harris group will have my input?"
AARP and Bob Evans' waitresses should be happy. The average age of the former coaches and ADs seems to be "walker." Voter John Mackovic, a former coach at Texas and Illinois, was quoted in a Palm Springs, Calif. newspaper saying, "To tell the truth I did not know a couple of them were still alive."
That doesn't exactly instill confidence in an already flawed BCS system -- and its latest poll. The Harris poll replaces the AP, which dropped out of the BCS after last season. BCS commissioners spent the summer assembling it as one of the eight components for the BCS standings.
The 114 Harris participants were chosen from among 300 nominees submitted by the 11 I-A conferences and Notre Dame. The first Harris poll will be released on Sept. 25. The first BCS standings debut on Oct. 17.
"I wish they'd go to a playoff system, then all would be right with the world," Rash said.
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