- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

NEW YORK — The Associated Press has told the Bowl Championship Series to stop using its college football poll to determine which teams play for the national title and in the most prestigious bowl games.

The BCS has used the AP poll of 65 writers and broadcasters as a component in its rankings since the system was implemented by officials from the Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-10, Southeastern Conference and Notre Dame in 1998.

The AP said such use was never sanctioned and had reached the point where it threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of the poll.

The AP sent BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg a cease-and-desist letter, dated yesterday, stating that use of the poll is unlawful and harms the AP’s reputation.

“We respect the decision of the Associated Press to no longer have its poll included in the BCS standings,” Weiberg said yesterday. “Since the inception of the BCS, the AP poll has been part of our standings. We appreciate the cooperation we have received from the organization in providing rankings on a weekly basis. We will discuss alternatives to the Associated Press poll at the upcoming BCS meetings and plan to conclude our evaluation of the BCS standings formula, including any other possible changes, by our April meeting.”

In its letter, the AP said some of its poll voters had indicated they might no longer participate because of concerns over having their reporters be so closely involved in the process of determining which teams play where.

“By stating that the AP poll is one of the three components used by BCS to establish its rankings, BCS conveys the impression that AP condones or otherwise participates in the BCS system,” the letter said. “Furthermore, to the extent that the public does not fully understand the relationship between BCS and AP, any animosity toward BCS may get transferred to AP. And to the extent that the public has equated or comes to equate the AP poll with the BCS rankings, the independent reputation of the AP poll is lost.”

This season, the AP poll and USA Today/ESPN coaches poll were given more weight than ever in the BCS standings. Each poll accounted for one-third of a team’s BCS grade, and total points were factored in, not just ranking, which was the case before.

A compilation of six computer rankings made up the final third of a team’s BCS grade.

That system was installed after Southern California, the No.1 team in both the media and coaches poll, was left out of the BCS title game last season. LSU beat Oklahoma for the BCS title, and USC won the AP title, creating the type of split championship situation that, in part, the BCS was created to avoid.

But the new system also has come under fire.

For the first time in the BCS era, three teams from major conferences — Southern Cal, Oklahoma and Auburn — finished unbeaten in the regular season. Auburn was left out of the Orange Bowl with the same 12-0 record as USC and Oklahoma.

More criticism came when Texas passed California for the last at-large bid in the final BCS standings.

“The Associated Press has not at any time given permission to the Bowl Championship Series to use its proprietary ranking of college football teams,” the AP said yesterday. “This unauthorized use of the AP poll has harmed AP’s reputation and interfered with AP’s agreements with AP poll voters. To preserve its reputation for honesty and integrity, the AP is asking the BCS to discontinue its unauthorized use of the AP poll as a component of BCS rankings.”

The BCS system also heightened scrutiny on the two polls.

All ballots in the coaches poll are secret despite numerous calls to release them, including from Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen and Cal coach Jeff Tedford.

The AP votes are public information, and the final individual ballots are published the same day as the final BCS standings.

Where the BCS goes from here won’t be determined for a while, but recently Weiberg and Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese have said the BCS would look into the possibility of using a selection committee to create the bowl matchups, much like the NCAA Division I basketball tournament.

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