It's a joyous day here at From Scrimmage. The American Football Coaches Association has caved and decided to release the final coaches poll ballots of each season in perpetuity. I'd like to think my public records campaign - which netted a few ballots - had a little something to do with this victory, but in reality, I was just a minor annoyance. I have a pretty good idea how the AFCA's board of trustees was convinced to reconsider its decision to keep all ballots private beginning with the 2010 season, but I'll explain that later. First, I'd like to thank the AFCA.
Thanks, AFCA, for understanding that these are challenging times in the publishing industry. I'm not sure if you read Time Inc.'s third-quarter report or the story in the New York Times, but my company is trying to trim its budget to keep profit margins high. We appreciate the fact that we don't have to drag schools into court to make coaches release their ballots. You saved us quite a bit in legal fees. Because legal action was the next step. Sure, you had us beat in New Mexico, where the open records law wasn't really on our side. But we would have cleaned your clock in Florida, and our chances were pretty good in Ohio, too. By the time our attorneys were finished, so many coaches would have dropped out of the poll for fear of their ballots becoming public every week that you would have had trouble recruiting a decent sample size. So thank you for that. The Time Inc. bean counters salute you.
Now, onto the real reason the AFCA caved. I have no inside sources here - believe it or not, the folks at the AFCA are not big fans of mine - but this is how I imagine it happened:
Deep inside a hollowed-out volcano in the middle of the Pacific, AFCA executive director Grant Teaff steps out of an elevator. He enters a grand control room with a giant mahogany table at its center. At the table sit the commissioners of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC in chairs made from the skin of baby seals. SEC commissioner Mike Slive rises and speaks.
Slive: Coach Teaff, thanks for coming. Can we offer you a drink? Perhaps a glass of iced tea or some Colombian coffee? The tuxedoed gentlemen you see are the associate commissioners of the WAC and Sun Belt. They're here to cater to your every whim. Lately, we've all been drinking a delightful cocktail made with the tears of non-BCS players whose teams went 12-0 and still played in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. You really should try it. The 2008 TCU is an especially good vintage.
Teaff: No, thanks. I'd just as soon discuss this coaches' poll thing.
Slive: OK, Coach. Well, we'd like you to reveal the final ballots. The public already considers us an evil cartel, and we figure it might engender some goodwill if we were a little bit transparent about how we distribute multimillion-dollar payouts to mostly public universities. So if you'd like to continue as part of the BCS, you'll reveal those final ballots forever.
Teaff: Well, we consulted with Gallup, and they told us the poll would be better if we kept the ballots secret. We figured we shouldn't argue with the people who gave us "Dewey Defeats Truman."
Slive: I see. If you'd like to continue as part of the BCS, you'll reveal those final ballots forever.
Teaff: But if we release those ballots, people will see that a lot of our coaches grossly inflate the rankings of fellow conference members or use the poll to settle old scores with coaches they hate.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany: Grant, I think what Mike is trying to say is this: If you'd like to continue as part of the BCS, you'll reveal those final ballots forever.
Teaff: C'mon guys. Most of my coaches are millionaire employees of taxpayer-funded institutions. They don't need that kind of scrutiny.
Big East commissioner John Marinatto: Look, I know I'm new around here, but let me give this a shot. Coach, you can tell people whatever you want. You can even put out a press release that makes it sound as if this was your idea. But if you'd like to continue as part of the BCS, you'll reveal those final ballots forever.
Teaff: So, as I was saying, we've decided to keep releasing those final ballots.
Slive: That's excellent. I'm so glad the AFCA has given this issue the thorough consideration it deserves. Now, Grant, if you'd like to stick around, the Boise State game is on. We can all watch and discuss how if the Broncos keep playing really hard, they might wind up in a BCS bowl game even if TCU also goes undefeated.
All six commissioners: A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!