SI.com launched a project last week to determine whether ballots for the USA Today coaches poll filed by public-school coaches are public records. I sent records requests to 49 of the 51 public schools that employ coaches poll voters. (Because I'm not a resident of Tennessee, I could not use Tennessee's open records law to request information from Memphis and Middle Tennessee State).
On Monday afternoon, an e-mail arrived from Suzy Yeager, the director of open records at Texas A&M. Yeager wrote that because Coach Mike Sherman submitted his ballot by phone, the athletic department had no record of his vote. But the athletic department did submit a list that Yeager attached to the e-mail.
The list looked like a top-25 ballot, from Florida at No. 1 to TCU at No. 25. So I called Alan Cannon, Texas A&M's associate athletic director for media relations, to figure out exactly what the list was. Cannon said he made the list and gave it to Sherman as a crib sheet for his preseason ballot. Cannon also said that after he submitted the list to comply with the records request, he asked Sherman how close he stayed to the crib sheet. "He said he thought he stayed pretty close to it," Cannon said Monday afternoon.
This illustrates one of the major knocks on the coaches poll. Upper level college football coaches are extremely busy and laser-focused on their own teams. It's difficult for them to find time to keep track of the rest of the college football universe, so they allow a sports information director or football operations director either to make their picks or assist in making their picks. The draw of a coaches poll is that the coaches know better than anyone what makes an excellent college football team, but if all the coaches aren't doing all the work to compile their ballots, we never know who exactly is voting.
At any rate, here is the ballot, compiled by Cannon, that Sherman stayed pretty close to ...
6. Ohio State
7. Oklahoma State
8. Virginia Tech
9. Ole Miss
10. Penn State
14. Florida State
17. Georgia Tech
20. North Carolina
21. Texas Tech
22. Boise State