Coaches should have voted this down
by Ferd Lewis
When the University of Hawai'i football team made its 12-0 run through the 2007 regular season, coach June Jones' pass-happy soul mate, Hal Mumme at New Mexico State, voted the Warriors' No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
In the nation.
Meanwhile, Jones' long-time antagonist, Dennis Franchione at Texas A&M, voted them No. 22.
We know this — and the considerable second-guessing and chiding of both that took place — because the American Football Coaches Association made their members' year-end ballots public for all to see. It kept shenanigans to a minimum.
But beginning in 2010 the final regular season ballots in the USA Today poll that is a one-third component of Bowl Championship Series selection will be, ssshhhh!, top secret, the AFCA has decided.
Gone will be the only degree of transparency that existed in the coaches' voting (ballots were kept secret until the final regular season poll) and the biggest check to all but the boldest voters' personal indulgences and agendas.
Or, as South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has put it to CBS, "Now, there's a chance for real hanky panky."
There has always been some machination involved — remember Texas' Mack Brown shamelessly campaigning for votes? But now let the back-room trading of votes, the sabotaging of rivals and buildup of buddies really get cranked up. Watch the plots thicken. With public oversight gone, multimillion-dollar bowl berths and conference prestige on the line, they're free to be in cahoots.
The BCS has enough image and credibility problems without turning 60 coaches loose in the dark to play their favorites, set up their opponents or extract vengeance.
The Harris Poll, which is also a component of the BCS process, reveals the year-end ballots of its voters, ex-coaches, administrators and others. The Associated Press poll of writers and broadcasters, which has taken itself out of the BCS process, has made public the ballots of its voters on a weekly basis. And we have a supply of scorching e-mails from West Virginia partisans last season to prove it.
The point is that the coaches, or at least their organizational mouthpiece, wants it both ways. Too many of them want a place in the process of determining which teams play for the national championship and get picked for the big bucks bowls for its members. But the AFCA also wants to shield them from even minimal year-end accountability. And, of course, the embarrassment from any petty jealousies or antagonisms that might be brought to light.
You hope they remember that the first time some skullduggery costs a deserving school — and its coach — a coveted bowl position.