It looks like SI.com is going to be kind enough to indulge Stewart Mandel and allow him to pimp his soon-to-be-released college football magnum opus on a regular basis.
There’s an excerpt from the book posted on the site that promises an “inside look at the AP poll through a voter’s eyes” (those eyes being Mandel’s, natch). Mandel’s description of his thought process as he goes through casting his ballots is the least interesting part of the story.
What does come across, despite his protestations to the contrary, is how thoughtless the whole ballot casting deal seems to be. For example, in discussing the business of preseason polls (described by Mandel as something which “any voter will tell you are an exercise in educated guesswork”) , he writes
… Even if the AP and coaches did delay their polls (which will never happen), it’s naïve to think the voters would sit down with a blank piece of paper and list 25 teams from scratch. Inevitably, they would use an Internet poll or other poll unofficial ranking as their starting point. Let’s face it — most pollsters don’t have the time to be original. [Emphasis added.]
Color me reassured.
And then there’s this description of events after UCLA upset Southern Cal and Florida won the SEC championship:
Whether the voters succumbed to the lobbying or acted on their own, we’ll never know. But when the final ballots were cast, an estimated 40 of 113 Harris Poll voters and 25 of 65 coaches moved the Gators ahead of idle Michigan, according to BCS expert Jerry Palm, enough to lift Florida from No. 4 to No. 2 in the final BCS standings. “It’s safe to say we would have never seen that much movement if this was Nov. 3 and not Dec. 3 simply based on the results of last weekend,” wrote Palm. “However, the voters weren’t simply picking this week’s number two team, they were choosing who would play for a national championship.” Never before had voters behaved in this way — and the ensuing controversy was heated. Jilted Michigan coach Lloyd Carr blasted Meyer for his lobbying tactics, calling his comments “inappropriate,” and pointed out, correctly, that had USC won, voters likely would have kept the Wolverines ahead of the Gators. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, faced with voting on his potential title-game opponent, created his own mini-controversy by abstaining from voting in the final poll, a move Carr referred to as “real slick” and ever-outspoken Texas Tech coach Mike Leach called, “a bunch of sanctimonious bunk.” And South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, a former Heisman-winning quarterback and record-setting coach at Florida, exposed for the umpteenth time the transparent agendas afoot in the coaches poll, saying he voted the Gators over Michigan because, “Heck, I’m a Gator.”
Incredibly enough – especially given the sub-title of his book (“Tackling the Chaos and Controversy That Reign Over College Football”) – after noting all this, Mandel concludes that
… So, while on the one hand the idea of voter polls in college football may seem completely outdated and archaic, not to mention ripe with conflicts of interest and other pitfalls, at least there’s been one positive advancement: Voters who actually put some thought into their ballots…
It’s that kind of insight that’s sure to make his book worth every penny of its $25.95 list price.