Coaches pursued once again to release votes
Jan. 21, 2005
By Dennis Dodd
SportsLine.com Senior Writer
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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Poll-voting coaches are perceived as having a 'back-room deal' unless they make public their ballots, the NCAA board chairman said this week.
University of Kansas chancellor Robert Hemenway criticized the coaches who participate in the Coaches poll that came under such BCS scrutiny last season.
Voting coaches have refused to publicly release their ballots citing a variety of reasons. But the conflict-of-interest outcry has become loud enough that all 117 Division I-A coaches are being asked by their professional organization to consider releasing votes to the public. The American Football Coaches Association is expected to contact all I-A head coaches about the issue after this weekend.
"I'll be very up front with you," Hemenway said. "I think it's ridiculous that the coaches are not revealing what their vote is. There's not transparency in that. It gives the sense that there is some kind of back room deal."
Hemenway chairs the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, the association's main policy-making body. While the board has no direct influence over the voting coaches' policy, Hemenway said there is a larger issue of honesty.
"I don't think coaches would do that," he said of improprieties, "but you can't leave the impression that coaches are doing that. That goes to this issue of integrity. If you're thinking about what is the integrity of your institution, you're coming to some easy decisions on things like that."
Facing increasing criticism during the 2004 season, the 61 voting coaches voted 32-29 against revealing their ballots in November. Earlier, the Football Writers Association of America had drafted a letter to AFCA executive director Grant Teaff asking that ballots be revealed.
After the season, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Fort Worth Star-Telegram filed Freedom of Information requests seeking the final ballots of the coaches at the 55 voting coaches at public universities. Cal, Wyoming and Washington State complied.
The voting coaches' possible conflicts of interest are obvious. Without the light of public scrutiny, coaches could be free to reward themselves or the coaches in their own conference. In essence, the voters could have a hand in lining their own pockets -- and those of their conferences -- with bowl money.
Slightly more than half of 117 coaches attended a I-A coaches meeting at the AFCA's annual convention earlier this month. A few coaches responded to a questionnaire asking: 1) would you be willing to releasing ballots each week or 2) would you be willing to release ballots after the regular season and if so, 3) would you participate as a voter?
The AFCA will attempt to get a larger sample of its members after this weekend's Hula Bowl in Hawaii. The association is a partner in staging the annual All-Star Game.
Results aren't expected until next month at the earliest. Meanwhile, BCS commissioners are deciding whether to add a human selection committee to the process. Last month, the Associated Press asked the commissioners not to use its poll. Because of that, it is assumed that another BCS component (poll or committee) will be added.
One name mentioned prominently for a human committee is Gene Corrigan, a former ACC commissioner, Notre Dame athletic director and NCAA membership president.
"Sure," Corrigan said when asked if he would serve on such a committee. "It would be like being on the basketball committee. That was one of the most enjoyable times of my life."
BCS commissioners discussed a human committee during the NCAA Convention earlier this month. They could come to a decision by April at the annual BCS meetings in Phoenix.
A human committee could make moot the issue of public coaches' ballots. If the committee has the power to make the final decision on which teams play in the BCS, the polls theoretically would be used only as a reference.
Even a human committee, though, couldn't solve the problem of the last two seasons -- three deserving teams competing for only two spots in the BCS title game. USC in 2003 and Auburn in 2004 did not get to play in the championship game despite deserving records.
"The BCS is being accused of failing when it was never intended, never designed to solve something when you've got three undefeated teams," Hemenway said.
Most college CEOs are unwilling to consider even a "plus-one" model: Two winners from the four major bowls playing an extra game for the national championship. The current BCS system seems like it will be in place at least the next six years of television contracts.
Hemenway reiterated that if eventually the BCS becomes too controversial, there are presidents that want to go back to the old bowl system. In that system, conference champions were slotted to major bowls and true 1 vs. 2 games were few and far between.
"Whether it comes to that, I don't know," Hemenway said. "I think there are ways the BCS can be done better."