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Six spots, coaches? Really?::Steve Dykes/Getty Images

No wonder the American Football Coaches Association wants coaches' poll ballots to stay private. The poll is such a joke, some voters might die of embarrassment if their votes ever saw the light of day.

BCS officials need to take a long look at Sunday's poll and think very hard about whether they want the poll to help decide which teams play in the national title game. The folks in charge of the BCS already were concerned about the final ballot going private after the 2010 season. They worried that might devalue the integrity of the poll. But after Sunday, how do you devalue the integrity of a poll that had no integrity in the first place?

The poll sunk to a new low Sunday, when coaches ranked 3-1 Oklahoma State three spots ahead of a 3-0 Houston team that beat the Cowboys in Stillwater on Sept. 12. Coaches also ranked Penn State ahead of Iowa in spite of the fact that the Hawkeyes beat the Nittany Lions in State College on Saturday. The most egregious instance of ballot-box stuffing? Cal, which lost to Oregon by 39 points on Saturday, is ranked six spots ahead of the Ducks.

If you read this space regularly, you know I have an ongoing project to use open records laws to force coaches to reveal their ballots. Other stories and my continuing misadventures as a new father have forced that project to the back burner in the past few weeks, but is not done with the coaches' poll. This most recent poll only confirms the need for more transparency. If the sports information directors who fill out the poll ballots for their coaches knew the results would wind up on the Web, they might actually take more than five minutes to fill out a ballot.

If the first round of records requests were any indication, most schools will fight this tooth and nail. The only coaches who willingly released their ballots were Air Force's Troy Calhoun, Texas Tech's Mike Leach, North Carolina's Butch Davis and South Florida's Jim Leavitt.

Now we know why the others were so reluctant. Why would they want to get killed for ignoring simple things like head-to-head results? I can understand the argument that Oklahoma State might be considered a better team than Houston by season's end. But given the results we have now, it's ludicrous to rank the Cowboys over the Cougars.

At least the voters in the Harris Interactive Poll - another third of the BCS formula - got the Houston-Oklahoma State rankings correct. Still, they ranked Penn State ahead of Iowa, which is dumbfounding because the Hawkeyes beat the Nittany Lions on national television less than 16 hours before the ballots were due. At least one Harris Poll voter missed Iowa's 2008 win against Penn State, but that guy isn't on the panel this year.

Great bunch of pollsters you've got there, BCS. Still, I understand your predicament. You can't use The Associated Press poll, because most media outlets - mine included - would order their employees to recuse themselves from the poll. I certainly would comply, because I have no business deciding who plays in the national title game.

But who should decide? The most logical solution seems to be a selection committee similar to the one that sets the field in the NCAA basketball tournament. That's probably the most plausible option, but one reader offered a fantastic, not-as-wacky-as-it-sounds suggestion a few weeks ago. I'd give him proper credit, but since he does business with several college football entities, he'd probably prefer to remain anonymous. He suggested a poll electorate made up of the only people who watch every college football game with a truly objective eye.

Las Vegas oddsmakers.

Think about it. They aren't loyal to any school. They're loyal to keeping the money even on both sides of the line. To set accurate lines, they must evaluate teams as objectively as humanly possible. If a bookmaker doesn't set accurate lines, the casino loses money, and the bookmaker loses his job. So he has no choice but to remain objective.

Of course, no one involved with college football would go for this. The NCAA, which tends to ignore all things BCS, would immediately step in and ban the poll. That's unfortunate, because based on the results we've seen from the coaches' poll and the Harris poll, the participants in the title game are being chosen by people who either aren't watching the games or don't care enough to put together a credible ballot.


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