On Your Marc: 11/1

It’s a rigged vote

By Marc Katz

The polls are rigged.

Of course they’re rigged.

How could they not be?

If you’re in the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, ACC, or Big 12 (or have the nickname Fighting Irish), you stand a much better chance of being selected for the college football playoffs Dec. 31, even if you got there in part by playing Chattanooga (as Alabama will) or Bowling Green (as Ohio State did).

Oh, I’m sorry. You thought I was talking about the political polls, which change daily, as the football polls change weekly.

There are 128 schools eligible for the big-time football polls and season-ending playoff, with a little more than half (66) really in the quest for one of the top four spots.

I don’t know how many are eligible for the political polls, but you know the two we have left, and neither one could muster up a team to beat Alabama or Ohio State, which returns us to the football polls, which are rigged.

Own a big name from the 1920s or ’30s or ’50s, be in a big conference, or best of all, have a major television following, and the votes will flow your way.

Be Houston, and we have a problem.

Thankfully, Houston’s already lost, so that discussion’s closed.

It really doesn’t matter how we pick our playoff teams, the fix is on.

When Alan J. Gould of the Associated Press—the story goes—decided to create interest between games with polls in 1934, the race to the top was on.

As bowl games proliferated—and the Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl, began as a rose parade, not a bowl game—bowl sites began signing up conferences, making it less likely No. 1 played No. 2 in a bowl game. That’s why all the champions until the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) came along were called mythical and why there might be three, four, or five undefeated teams at the end of a season.

National Associated Press Sports Editor Alan J. Gould is credited with starting the AP poll system in 1934, ranking 20 teams. The next year, Gould tried to rank teams himself, finishing the 1935 season claiming the undefeated teams of Minnesota, Princeton, and SMU were all No. 1. Ohh, The Donald would have dropped stink bombs all over that one.

In 1936, Gould and the AP went to a nationwide panel-ranking system, in use to this day, although the AP will not allow its ranking to be used in the playoff formula in an attempt to keep its system more pure and less fixed.

Nice try.

“Papers wanted material to fill space between games,” Gould said in an interview maybe 50 years ago, when there were still a lot of newspapers. “That’s all I had in mind, something to keep the pot boiling.”

Oh, he kept it boiling.

Many years ago, I was an AP voter and once received a voice message on my work telephone.

“You Catholics are all alike,” the voice said, angry I had placed Notre Dame higher than the caller wanted.

I’m sure there’s a Catholic Katz somewhere in the world, but it isn’t this one of them.

When it became fashionable for newspapers to print the rankings of those who voted, I had Ohio State No. 2 late in a season and an assistant OSU coach told me I ought to be more loyal to the team I covered.

I told him what I’m telling you here, only the final vote matters. It didn’t matter that year since OSU was upset the very next week, the coach avoiding me as I walked by him.

One year, a Columbus Dispatch story wondered why John Cooper voted his Buckeyes No. 1 in the coaches poll and I had them No. 2.

I joked because Cooper’s contract contained a bonus for a No. 1 ranking (it did) and his wife, Helen, didn’t like it and told me so.

She was right, of course. I firmly believe if her husband didn’t think his team was No. 1, he wouldn’t have voted it that way.

There were a couple of other votes that put me in a low voltage spotlight.

I voted OSU No. 1 (and was the only voter to do so, although one person split a vote) following the 1997 Rose Bowl. Everybody else made Florida a landslide No. 1.

Michigan ruined OSU’s perfect season 13-9 on November 23 and a week later, unbeaten Florida was toppled 24-21 by Florida State.

Florida had an advantage that season Ohio State didn’t. The SEC had a championship game, which Florida won easily over Alabama, leaving undefeated FSU and Arizona State 1-2 in the AP poll, with Florida No. 3 and OSU No. 4.

In the first year of the Bowl Alliance, the Rose Bowl opted to keep its old guidelines, inviting ASU as the Pacific Coast rep and OSU from the Big Ten.

The Sugar Bowl grabbed Florida versus Florida State.

When Florida won its rematch easily, the Gators were near unanimous No. 1 and Ohio State’s victory over previously undefeated ASU meant almost nothing.

The next year brought a true split vote, Michigan in the AP and Nebraska in the coaches poll.

I voted for Michigan, to the dismay of the many callers I answered after that.

Nobody suggested that poll was rigged. But, come on.

Somebody’s got to take the blame.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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