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Another Blow for the BCS

ESPN says it will no longer co-sponsor the coaches poll with USA Today, citing a decision by the coaches to reveal only their final voting.

June 08, 2005|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

A bowl championship series bar fight that started in December has spilled into the streets of June.

So what else, you ask, can go bonkers in the day-to-day operations of college football?

Months after Associated Press pulled out of the BCS standings citing conflict-of-interest reasons, ESPN announced Tuesday it would no longer jointly co-sponsor the coaches' poll along with USA Today.

The cable sports network said it did not want its name affiliated with the poll because the coaches have agreed to release only their final ballots next year -- ESPN wanted the votes revealed weekly.

"Coaches have the perfect right to conduct their voting the way they see fit," Vince Doria, ESPN's vice president and director of news, told AP. "We just feel, in our best interests here, we couldn't reconcile having our name on the poll and being able to cover any controversy that might arise."

ESPN has been a co-sponsor of the controversial coaches' poll since 1997, the year before the BCS was formed. For as long as ESPN has been involved, the voting coaches have not revealed their votes in the weekly BCS standings, a policy that ignited public outcry last season in what may be remembered as the "Cal-Texas" debacle.

In a battle for the final big-money, BCS bowl berth, Texas edged California for the final spot in the BCS standings and denied the Golden Bears their first Rose Bowl appearance in 45 years.

The suspicion of foul play arose when some coaches anonymously dropped Cal after a 10-point road victory at Southern Mississippi.

The pressure during the Cal-Texas points debate was so great on AP voters -- who do make their votes available to the public -- the organization in December decided to withdraw as a component of the BCS standings.

Reached Tuesday, BCS spokesman Bob Burda said the organization had "no comment regarding ESPN's decision of not wanting to be part of the poll. There will continue to be a coaches' poll and that poll will be part of the BCS."

Later this month, the BCS is expected to officially decide whether to replace the AP with another poll in the BCS formula, which also includes a computer component, or consider other options.

ESPN's exit from the BCS is more ceremonial and symbolic than significant, primarily lending its name to the poll for branding purposes to cross-promote with parent company ABC, which owns the BCS broadcast rights through next season.

USA Today remains responsible for collecting, tabulating and monitoring the weekly votes.

After some soul-searching of its own, USA Today recently agreed to remain a sponsor of the poll after the coaches voted to reveal their final votes.

In a June 2 editorial Monte Lorell, USA Today's managing editor for sports, wrote the coaches' decision was "a monumental one." The headline over the editorial read "Transparency Helps Ensure Integrity of Our College Poll."

ESPN, obviously, didn't see it the same way.

There may have been another reason why ESPN wanted to get out.

Beginning in the 2006 season, Fox takes over as the primary broadcast carrier for the BCS (ABC will keep only the Rose Bowl in the new four-year deal.)

There has been speculation within the BCS that Fox might be interested in taking over the co-sponsorship of the coaches' poll.

"We're very satisfied with the television portion of our BCS deal," Fox spokesman Dan Bell said. " ... but it is not our intention to be part of the BCS poll."

As with everything regarding the BCS, however, it's best to stay tuned.

Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.

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