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The Coaches' Poll Takes a Step in the Wrong Direction

In pretty much any enterprise other than espionage, transparency makes things better. There needs to be accountability for human actions.

I about did a double take when I saw that the Coaches' Poll is no longer releasing its final votes beginning in 2010. How quickly they forget about 2004, when Texas suspiciously got a large swing in votes to pass up Cal and get the automatic BCS bid associated with finishing No. 4. That incident was the impetus for opening up the votes, and it appears they're closing them again simply because of a Gallup Poll recommended it (Or did it? I can't find any concrete information on who was polled and what the actual results were).

I can't fathom the thought process behind this given that the Coaches' Poll is one of the main components of the BCS standings. With the BCS getting strung up in the public square (i.e. Congress) lately, decreasing transparency is about the worst move you can make.

The inherent conflict of interest of the poll being in the BCS is road well-traveled, both by me and thousands of others. If anything, they should be pulling the curtain back further instead of letting it collapse shut again. There is too much money on the line for radio silence.

Word about the move made it to the SEC coaches, and a few gave their opinions on the matter. Steve Spurrier was surprised, and Mark Richt not only expressed disappointment but affirmed that he personally does his own vote. The fact that anyone would need to make that fact clear illustrates one of the poll's major problems in and of itself.

Urban Meyer doesn't have a strong feeling either way, so he's fine with the final ballot closing:

"I think there's arguments both ways. We all know how competitive things are, whether it be a fan base, whether it be recruiting, whether it be friendships. I think at some point you have to trust people who vote. Obviously Grant Teaff and the people who oversee it will look at it and if someone's voting and it doesn't make much sense, I think they'll pull their ballot."

The problem is that we don't always know who votes, because it's a terribly kept secret that some coaches pass their ballots off to other people to fill out. And even if Teaff is diligent in weeding out people who try to game the system, we have no proof that it's being done. I mean, we've seen in past years that coaches tend to vote in regional or conference blocs, and that was when the final ballots were being released.

The SEC head guys didn't want their weekly ballots released as they all thought it would be too big a distraction. Well, aside from Spurrier I don't know a single coach who can't shut down a line of media questioning with a "no comment" and an icy stare. The easiest way to make it not a distraction would be to do a good job with your ballot every week and then never offer your opinion on it. Just say "it's the best I could do this week" and leave it at that.

This issue would not matter if the poll was for entertainment purposes only. However, it's for entertainment purposes only in the same way that Las Vegas' betting lines are "for entertainment purposes only." Maybe some people don't take them seriously, but millions of dollars move on the poll just like they do with the betting lines.

The process needs to be open. If the coaches want a say in who gets to play for it all, then they need to be held accountable for it. They can't hide from a bad decision on Saturday, so they shouldn't be able to hide from a bad decision on Sunday either.

If they can't take the heat, then they should stay out of the kitchen. Yesterday's decision was a big step backwards for college football.