Bias? What bias?

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.



Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Mumme Poll

20 responses to “Bias? What bias?

  1. Dante

    This is exactly why I preferred the pre-BCS selection system. The polls are a highly subjective and biased beauty pageant. We shouldn’t be basing post-season bowl selection on pageant results plus a computer program whose “success” is defined by how much it matches those pageant results. Polls used to be a read-only mechanism. College football did what it did and the polls ranked teams based on what the pollsters saw. Now poll results are the difference between the Sugar Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl. We’ve given them entirely too much credence.


  2. Spence

    Wouldn’t those biases cancel themselves out?


    • Not when only 60 coaches out of 120 vote.


      • Mark

        If they don’t cancel each other out, then how is it that the final coaches poll is almost identical to the AP poll? Now, if one conference has more coaches voting than another conference, it’s a problem for sure. My opinion on my question is the press is biased too but they like picking on the coaches more than they like picking on themselves.


      • 4.0 Point Stance

        Are there any similar studies for AP voters – i.e., writers from CA overrate Pac-10 teams, etc. I’m sure you’d see simlar, if maybe less pronounced, effects there.

        And 60 out of 120 coaches voting isn’t a problem if they’re appropriately randomly distributed across conferences. Any single vote just doesn’t matter enough. Rail all you want about Saban voting OSU 4th, but that’s not why Alabama’s in the MNC. Disclaimer: I’m not defending the coach’s poll and agree it should be blown up.


  3. Saint Johns Dawg

    It’s a very interesting point … People rail on Mike Slive all the time for “SEC conspiracy” theories for getting his conference teams in the big game.

    Perhaps all Slive does in the closed-door Destin meetings with the coaches is point out that if 2 SEC teams met in the BCS, that’s double the the payout to the conference. Delaney and the other conferences no doubt do the same.

    The coaches then “handle” things themselves with the seasonal polling … team first, conference second.


  4. kdsdawg

    Not to mention you got Coach A that got fired by Coach B that has a vote to decide if you are #2 or not. There are many many biases in those polls. But of course we know ALL coaches have tons of integrity so that would never happen…right…right


  5. BigTimeDawgFan



  6. Hogbody Lombardi

    The older I get the more predictable people are.
    It’s so hard not be a cynic. You want to have a sunny disposition about human nature, but you can hardly get out of bed in the morning without seeing someome taking advantage of a conflict, and most of them in more important things than college football. Maybe it’s the transparent explanations that make it worse.
    “OH, YEAH, you can trust us. We’re free from the temptations of ordinary men. We know how to be completely objective.”


  7. Go Dawgs!

    For some reason this reminds me of an Onion story on a study that finds stabbing was harmful to laboratory monkeys. If you ask me to vote on which employee of my business is the best, with the knowledge that those finishing highest in the poll win some sort of huge prize, the urge to place one’s self high in the poll would be powerful.


  8. mwo

    What would happen if there were no preseason polls to seed the rankings? What if the first poll was the BCS poll? Preseason polls are wrong more than they are right. I’ll bet anyone on here could guess 12 of the preseason top 15 next year, and probably only 1 or 2 of the teams would finish where they started. If Alabama didn’t get so much preseason love, they wouldn’t be playing in the BCS. Just my .02.


  9. Will Trane

    I’m sorta in the Grant Teaffs’ out look of the coaches voting. Why? More familar with the conference teams and the southeast.
    Frankly, I am more interested in how the Dawgs play. I thought their play in the SECCG was good and reflected the team they were during the season. Can they beat Bama? Think they play them a lot tighter. Can they Arkansas and South Carolina now? Without a doubt.
    Again my compliant about LSU. How can they be ranked # 1 against a team that completely shut them down for a whole half of game. Never across mid-field, no first downs. 11 yds of total offense, and the opposing team runs 85 plays against you [now that is a record that will stand in the SECCG for awhile]. Only the lack of execution, no running game due to injuries, and turnovers saved their butts.
    Now if I was a SEC coach, watched the game, where would I place them. #1, but Bama would not be #2, I’d vote OSU there even with their 1 loss. I think the events among the players and coaches the week of their game with Iowa State contributed to their loss.
    What i would like to see is for the Dawgs to get a running game goind and get to the edge. With their TEs & WRs,plus a healthy Crowell that should happen. Get him in the green of the field. My other Christams wish is for the SEC to end its association with Atlanta and move the game to Birmingham, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and etc. Atlanta does a piss poor job with a facility and hospitality. If you do not think so, well read how those writers at the AJC attack the SEC and coaches. Throw in the south Georgia high school teams.


  10. mwo

    Oklahoma State was victimized by their own conference. If they went 11 and 1 in the regular season and Nebraska and Colorado had not defected, Okie State would have received enough of a bump by winning their conference championship game to pass Bama in the final BCS rankings. ( I think). Blame the Big 12 for not keeping their shit together and maintaining a conference with a championship game.


    • Dante

      Maybe, but a team that lost to the spinning Chiziks can lose to anyone. I’m not so sure they remain 1-loss with any additional games, especially a conference championship game.


      • mwo

        They probably would have played 1 less conference game during the regular season – right? I see what you are saying but I still would rather see them in the big game than a rematch. I got sick of the hype waiting 2 weeks for the regular season game. Now I get a month of it!



    But you’ve got Spurrier and Saban voting Georgia down. The reason for that could be recruiting. Recruiting is the game that has a never ending season. Keeping the teams that recruit in your region out of the top ten is a big deal too.
    I think conference loyalty ends there.


  12. Macallanlover

    Coaches are among the least qualified of all to vote for college teams on a national basis. Some give it a major efffort, most don’t, but regardless of the effort, they simply don’t have enough time to watch/follow all of college football. The only people not smart enough to realize this are the ones who gave us this system in the first place. College football after the regular season (and championship games for some) is purely an exhibition. Bowls are only important for the extra practice time.

    And I ask again: why aren’t Redshirts allowed to play in Bowl games? They work hard for almost five full months, August through December, throw them a bone NCAA! Let’s get them some game time, recognition, and chance to make their case for next year.


  13. Excellent post Senator. Humans are irrational no matter how much they deny it.