Wednesday, December 22, 2004

AP Ends BCS Participation, An Ethical Decision

The decision by the Associated Press to refuse permission in the future for its football poll to be used in the B.C.S. selections represents a victory for journalistic ethics.

The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and, most particularly, the Charlotte Observer had done lengthy articles showing how suspicious changes in the votes in both the A.P. sportswriters poll, and the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll had allowed Texas to improperly vault past Cal into the Rose Bowl.

In the ESPN/USA coaches poll, despite the refusal of its organizers to divulge individual coaches' votes, it was established beyond much doubt that some coaches from the Big 12 and Deep South changed their votes in the last two weeks, thus giving Big 12 schools a much bigger bowl payoff --millions of dollars more--than the Pac-10 schools.

In the writers' poll, nine of the 65 voters changed their votes toward Texas and away from Cal, despite more impressive Cal performances and statistics indicating Cal's superiority as a team above Texas. The result is a second rate Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. Cal, the nation's fourth rated team, lost out on a prestigeous bowl altogether, being relegated to the obscure Holiday Bowl, to be played in San Diego Dec. 30.

The L.A. Times, to its credit, has recently not been permitting any of its sports personnel to vote in the AP poll.

In a letter Dec. 21 to the B.C.S. coordinator, the AP declared that the B.C.S. had "damaged and continues to damage A.P.'s reputation for honesty and integrity in its news accounts through the forced association of the A.P. poll with the B.C.S. rankings."

Chris DuFresne, L.A. Times sportswriter, did two fine articles on the highly suspicious character of vote changes in both the writers' and coaches' polls. The New York Times reporting was even stronger. However, it was an article by Mike Persinger, sports editor of the Charlotte Observer, that most pointedly divulged that millions of dollars hinged on Texas' receiving a Rose Bowl berth and that such pecuniary considerations were apparently decisive in the suspicious changes in both polls. Texas' coach and its fans openly lobbied for the selection of the apparently inferior Texas team. Some of the voting journalists and coaches cravenly gave in to this pressure.

By moving as it did, the A.P. finally showed itself more alert to ethical considerations than ESPN and USA Today.

It has not been a good time for ESPN. Its Heisman presentation show kept the winner secret until the last four minutes of the hour-long presentation, preventing any immediate analysis of the selection of USC quarterback Matt Leinart. Then, its broadcast Saturday night of the Gonzaga basketball upset over third-ranked Georgia Tech saw ESPN announcers describing Gonzaga as an unranked team, when, in the A.P. poll, Gonzaga was already ranked 22nd.

The B.C.S. may now be forced to allow a selection committee to rank its teams, as the NCAA does with its basketball selections Maybe, a selection committee wouldn't be as inclined to bias against West Coast teams, or wouldn't be as susceptible to Texas lobbying.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

From JPS: It's interesting that the Rose Bowl has the highest payout of all the bowl games, even larger than the BCS championship game--the Orange Bowl. In a recent wire story, it said the Rose Bowl will pay out $14.5 million for its game Jan 1, compared to $11 million to $14 million for the other BCS games.

12/24/2004 5:27 PM  
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