Say what you will about Jeff Sagarin and his role in picking a football national champion, he’s spot on about this: “There are so many conflicts of interest in coaches. People who say coaches would never let personal interests get in the way of their vote — give me a break. That’s a joke.”
That’s not exactly conjecture on his part, either. There’s a study which suggests just that.
… The researchers studied bias in the poll by calculating the difference between the coaches’ poll and the BCS computer based ranking system, in addition to the deviation between individual coaches’ ballots and the average rankings of approximately 60 coaches’ ballots. Both statistical approaches demonstrated that coaches’ votes were biased by as much as two spots in favor of their team, as much as one spot in favor of teams in their athletic conference, and as much as half a spot in favor of teams they had defeated.
And – surprise! – that’s pretty much how things played out this year.
In the final 2011 coaches’ poll released on Dec. 4, coaches from Auburn, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina all voted fellow Southeastern Conference (SEC) team Alabama second while coaches from Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas Tech all voted fellow Big 12 team Oklahoma State second. LSU will play Alabama in the National Championship Game Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
It’s not just that familiarity breeds respect in the Coaches Poll. Money talks, too.
… The financial incentives led the coaches of teams in the six BCS conferences to rank the teams in their conference higher if those teams were on the cusp of receiving a bowl game invitation, and non-BCS coaches to rank non-BCS conference teams higher. The study found that a payoff of between 3.3 and five million dollars resulted in an increased ranking of one position, and larger payoffs had an even greater effect.[Emphasis added.]
“I became interested in this study not just because of football but because studying conflicts of interest are a much bigger phenomenom in all aspects of economics and political activity,” Kotchen said. He added that the study’s results made him skeptical that voters can control their biases.
Skeptical, schmeptical. Obviously Kotchen hasn’t been talking to the right people.
Like Grant Teaff, for example.
“Is it perfect — of course not,” Teaff said. “Is there bias? Of course the coaches think highly of their teams. That’s not bias. If they weren’t that way, they wouldn’t keep their jobs.”
He added that “even with its frailties” the poll has been “amazingly accurate” throughout its 62-year history.
The idea that a coach might lose his job over failing to rank his team highly enough in the Coaches Poll is ludicrous. If what Teaff suggests were really true, you’d have coaches fighting to vote in the poll for their own job security.
BCS shill Bill Hancock has Teaff’s back.
”As for Sagarin’s criticism of the coaches, Hancock says, “The coaches’ poll results are very similar to the results of the media poll. So clearly the group is doing something right. I think conflicts of interest are exaggerated.”
Yeah, clearly Hal Mumme was right. The rest of us are idiots.