Coaches mull changes in football poll

PHOENIX -- The results of a three-month review of the USA Today coaches' poll are a secret.

The coaches' final regular-season ballots -- and even the identity of the 61 voters -- may soon be a secret as well.

Those are among several possible changes being considered by the American Football Coaches Association, which has been releasing the final regular-season ballots since 2005 in an effort to bring transparency to the Bowl Championship Series selection process. The coaches' Top 25 accounts for one-third of the BCS standings.

The AFCA asked Gallup to study its poll and make recommendations that will make the poll more accurate and credible. The AFCA's board heard the results of the survey Wednesday but declined to make them public.

The AFCA will meet with USA Today and BCS officials before announcing any changes to the voting process, probably by the end of the month.

"Historically, we have never released the votes," AFCA executive director Grant Teaff said. "When it came up that, OK, it would be better if you did, I think there was acquiescing by the coaches. As to whether it's helped the poll or not, I don't think I can really say. Whether it's hurt it or not, I don't know. The only thing that we can base a decision on, as AFCA, is what the experts say about it.

"We've obviously proven our loyalty to both the BCS and USA Today by releasing those," Teaff said. "But the question is whether that's the correct thing to do or not. Does that give us the way to have the best possible poll we can have?

"There's also a question of, should all voters be anonymous or not?" Teaff said.

Teaff said the survey explored a wide range of questions, including whether 25 is the optimum number of teams, and whether there should be a preseason poll.

"The other question that we had was, should individual coaches be able to vote for their own teams?" Teaff said. "We've always allowed that. We didn't really have a real reason for that, except it just sounded like hey, that should be the right thing to do. So that was a very important question."

One thing that won't change: Teaff said the coaches will still be required to put the winner of the BCS title game atop their final post-bowl ballot.

The coaches' poll is one of three components in the BCS standings, along with the Harris Poll and an average of six computer rankings, with each entity counting for a third of a team's overall score.

The standings help set the BCS title game and also come into play when the other four BCS bowls -- the Fiesta, Rose, Sugar and Orange -- select their participants.

The coaches' poll, which began in 1950, has often been the center of controversy. Critics have noted that voters have a financial stake in the outcome because their conferences benefit from drawing lucrative BCS berths. There are also questions of favoritism toward friends and bias against rivals.

"The perception is that there's a huge bias, and we've never really found that," Teaff said.

AFCA president Dick Tomey, the coach at San Jose State, said he was pleased with the survey results.

"We want the coaches poll to be the very best poll possible," Tomey said. "We got the input from the people that have been doing this the longest, the best in the world, in order to help us understand the best way to do this kind of thing. So we feel very good about the way it turned out."