AP made call with poll's integrity in mind

NEW YORK -- It looks as if the Bowl Championship Series is
headed for another major overhaul.

The Associated Press has told the BCS to stop using its college
football poll to determine which teams play for the national title
and in the most prestigious bowl games.

Since the BCS was implemented in 1998 by officials from the Big
East, Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-10,
Southeastern Conference and Notre Dame, the formula it uses to rank
teams has been tweaked almost every year. But the AP poll and the
ESPN/USA Today coaches poll have always been an integral part.

The AP said such use was never sanctioned and had reached the
point where it threatened to undermine the independence and
integrity of the poll.

The AP sent BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg a cease-and-desist
letter, dated Dec. 21, stating that use of the poll is unlawful and
harms the AP's reputation.

"We respect the decision of the Associated Press to no longer
have its poll included in the BCS standings," Weiberg said in a
statement Tuesday. "Since the inception of the BCS, the AP poll
has been part of our standings. We appreciate the cooperation we
have received from the organization in providing rankings on a
weekly basis. We will discuss alternatives to the Associated Press
poll at the upcoming BCS meetings and plan to conclude our
evaluation of the BCS standings formula, including any other
possible changes, by our April meeting."

Where the BCS goes from here won't be determined for a while,
but even before the AP made its poll off limits Weiberg had said
that the BCS planned to look into the possibility of using a
selection committee to create the bowl matchups, much like the NCAA
Division I basketball tournament.

This season, the AP and coaches poll were given more weight than
ever in the BCS standings. Each poll accounted for one-third of a
team's BCS grade and total points were factored in, not just
ranking, which was the case before.

A compilation of six computer rankings made up the final third
of teams' BCS grade.

The new system put heighten scrutiny on the two polls.

In its letter, the AP said some of its poll voters had indicated
they might no longer participate because of concerns over having
their reporters be so closely involved in the process of
determining which teams play where.

"By stating that the AP poll is one of the three components
used by BCS to establish its rankings, BCS conveys the impression
that AP condones or otherwise participates in the BCS system," the
letter said. "Furthermore, to the extent that the public does not
fully understand the relationship between BCS and AP, any animosity
toward BCS may get transferred to AP. And to the extent that the
public has equated or comes to equate the AP poll with the BCS
rankings, the independent reputation of the AP poll is lost."

The latest BCS formula was installed after Southern California,
the No. 1 team in both the media and coaches poll, was left out of
the BCS title game last season. LSU beat Oklahoma for the BCS
title, and USC won the AP title, creating the type of split
championship situation that, in part, the BCS was created to avoid.

But the new system has also come under fire.

For the first time in the BCS era, three teams from major
conferences -- Southern California, Oklahoma and Auburn -- finished
unbeaten in the regular season. Auburn was left out of the Orange
Bowl with the same 12-0 record held by USC and Oklahoma.

Texas passed California for the last at-large bid in the final
BCS standings, and had many lamenting the BCS.

The ESPN/USA Today poll caught the brunt of the criticism in the
Texas-Cal argument. Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen and Cal coach
Jeff Tedford both called for the coaches to make their ballots
public. That request was denied.

The AP votes are public information, and the final individual
ballots were published the same day as the final BCS standings.

"The Associated Press has not at any time given permission to
the Bowl Championship Series to use its proprietary ranking of
college football teams," the AP said in a statement Tuesday.
"This unauthorized use of the AP poll has harmed AP's reputation
and interfered with AP's agreements with AP poll voters. To
preserve its reputation for honesty and integrity, the AP is asking
the BCS to discontinue its unauthorized use of the AP poll as a
component of BCS rankings."