If you have been around these parts for any length of time, you no doubt know that we — and by “we” I mean “me” — absolutely abhor preseason polls. Despise them more than anything other than maybe the BcS. Or the cast of Jersey Shore.
It’s never made a lick of sense how you could even semi-accurately compile a preseason Top 25 when nary a game has been played. Different coaches, different players, different circumstances from the previous season, and yet you’re going to put together a legitimate ranking in August?
No, you’re not. It’s not going to happen. The only way to properly do the first poll of a given season — the dolts in the Harris poll notwithstanding — is to wait at least a couple of games or, preferably, a month before releasing an initial set of rankings.
Apparently, an entity that makes up one-third of the BcS formula agrees with that sentiment.
As we learn in an outstanding piece of journalism by Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports.com, a study commissioned by the American Football Coaching Association last year came back with a recommendation that, among the many ways to improve the USA Today coaches’ poll, a poll should not be released until a month into the season. The paper’s deputy managing editor Jim Welch told Doyel that “[t]he coaches seemed to agree with” that recommendation.
USA Today doesn’t agree with that stance, however. Neither does the Associated Press. Writes Doyel…
Now, listen. In the interest of fairness, I understand USA Today’s position and even agree with it journalistically. USA Today’s position, Welch told me, is that college football is a year-round conversation piece, and that a preseason poll is a road map not only for fans but also for news organizations like USA Today.
Sound reasoning, and AP sports editor Terry Taylor gave that same reasoning when she told me the AP has “never considered” doing away with the preseason poll.
“Our members like it,” Taylor said, referring to news outlets that subscribe to the AP. “They call ahead of time because they want to plan pages around it.”
Look, you will never, ever, ever get a perfect poll, regardless of whether you continue to do it in the preseason or wait until November for the first release. However, you stand a better chance of getting a truer reflection of the landscape and where teams stand by waiting until games have actually been played before releasing the initial rankings.
The way the ranking system is currently constituted, you’re asking voters to peer into the future and play the role of football clairvoyant. The same voters, incidentally, that sometimes have a hard time looking at the recent past with any degree of clarity.
It’s a flaw in a truly flawed system, but it’s a correctable one. For once, those in the media should take the words of a collection of coaches to heart.