The Bowl Championship Series will no longer be allowed to use the Associated Press College Football Poll in its formula to determine the participants in the national championship game and other prestigious bowl games.
The AP poll, consisting of 65 writers and broadcasters across the nation, has been a major component in the BCS formula since the formula’s inception by the Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Pac 10, Southeastern Conference and Notre Dame in 1998.
Prior to its use in the BCS formula, the AP poll had also been a major factor in the selection of bowl teams under the Bowl Alliance, the precursor to the BCS.
According to the Associated Press, such action was never sanctioned by the AP office and the BCS’s use of the poll had reached a point of undermining the integrity of the AP. The AP sent a cease-and-desist order to BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg on Dec. 21, stating that the BCS’s use of the AP poll was unlawful and harmful to the reputation of the Associated Press.
“We respect the decision of the Associated Press to no longer have its poll included in the BCS standings,” Weiberg said in a statement Dec. 21. “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.”
According to the statement, several AP pollsters felt the poll was too closely linked to the controversial BCS formula and would no longer participate in the poll.
“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.”
This season, the AP poll and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll were given greater weight in the BCS mathematical calculation. Both polls accounted for one-third of a team’s BCS grade. The number of points teams received in each poll was also taken into account this season instead of just the overall ranking. The final third of the BCS grade came from the combination of six computer rankings.
The change was made after the 2004 bowl season ended with a pair of undefeated teams. USC, No. 1 in both the coaches’ poll and the AP poll, was left out of the BCS championship game. LSU defeated Oklahoma for the BCS national championship, but USC became the AP national champion by virtue of their win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
This season saw more turmoil for the system as five teams — USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Utah and Boise State — finished the regular season undefeated. USC and Oklahoma were placed in the national championship game, the Orange Bowl this season, where USC routed Oklahoma 55-19. Auburn finishes the season undefeated after its 16-13 Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, and Utah also finishes undefeated with a 35-7 victory over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.
“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 its Dec. 21 statement. “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.”
Concerns have also been raised about the increased public pressure the BCS has brought on the two polls. Ballots from the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll remain a secret, but there is pressure, especially from Pac 10 commissioner Tom Hansen and University of California coach Jeff Tedford, to make them public.
The AP votes are public information, and the final individual ballots are published the same day as the final BCS standings. However, disturbing reports from ESPN.com tell of several AP voters being bombarded with e-mails and phone calls by fans attempting to influence the votes of voters. This fan movement apparently stemmed from Texas head coach Mack Brown’s plea to voters to move Texas ahead of other “less deserving teams.”
It remains unclear where the BCS will move from here. According to Weiberg and Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, one possibility could be the adoption of a selection committee, based on the college basketball selection committee, whose poll would replace the AP poll in the BCS calculation.