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Ohio State's Tressel casts a vote for unaccountability

December 07, 2006|Chris Dufresne

Transparency is a beautiful thing -- in government, newspapers and college football coaches' polls.

Making the USA Today coaches reveal their final ballots Sunday was like shining a flashlight into an attic.

The glare was so intense for Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel he yanked down the shades -- electing not to cast a final vote because he felt voting for either Michigan or Florida represented a conflict of interest.

The question: How would Tressel have voted given the same situation two years ago when coaches didn't have to make public their final ballots.

If Tressel didn't want a rematch against Michigan, which he didn't, he could have voted the Wolverines third.

There still would have been a conflict of interest -- the only difference being Tressel wouldn't have to admit to it.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday December 10, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
College football: Chris Dufresne's column in Sports on Thursday said Ohio State defeated Texas, the defending national champion, Sept. 2. The game was played Sept. 9.

For years, the voting coaches crouched behind giant desks and handed off anonymous ballots to their sports information directors.

In 1995, two coaches dropped Florida to 11th and 13th after they lost the national title game to Nebraska, an obvious swipe at then-Gators coach Steve Spurrier.

The coaches couldn't hide forever, though.

Any pretense of credibility dissolved in 2003 when two dozen coaches had to take their No. 1 votes away from USC and give them to Louisiana State because the coaches' association mandated they award the Bowl Championship Series title to the bowl that USC was not playing in.

It got uglier the next year when the bid for the Rose Bowl came down to a BCS tug-of-war between Texas and California.

Alas, last year, the coaches reluctantly agreed to reveal their final votes and then got a lollipop with USC vs. Texas, which had been Nos. 1 and 2 the entire season.

How tough a decision was that?

This year was tough, and we got to see up close how the coaches responded under public pressure.

Tressel punted.

"I thought it wasn't appropriate for us to cast a ballot with circumstances as they were," he said.

Bottom line: If Tressel isn't ready to make difficult choices, he needs to get out of the voting business.

The American Football Coaches Assn. will certainly take up this prickly issue when it meets next month.

"Prior to 2005, coaches were never faced with the decision Jim Tressel had to make this past weekend," AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff said in a statement. "We will have a policy in place for next season."

That policy needs to simply state: you vote or you're out.

Closer inspection of the final coaches' ballot revealed other interesting, if not unexpected, truths.

Of the 19 voting coaches who had teams ranked in the final top 25, only one had his team ranked worse than the team's final ranking: Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan voted Nebraska No. 23, one spot lower than its No. 22 ranking.

Callahan may have tipped his hand when he ripped his own performance in Nebraska's loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference title game.

"I was disappointed in everything I did," he said in a conference call this week.

Two coaches, Les Miles of Louisiana State and Dennis Franchione of Texas A&M, ranked their teams exactly where they finished in the final poll.

Most coaches had a much higher opinion of their own teams than the consensus.

West Virginia finished No. 12; Rich Rodriguez voted the Mountaineers No. 7.

Notre Dame finished No. 11; Charlie Weis voted the Irish No. 8.

Oklahoma finished No. 8; Bob Stoops ranked the Sooners No. 4.

Conflict of interest?

Illinois Coach Ron Zook voted Florida No. 2 ahead of Michigan. Zook, of course, was the Florida coach before Urban Meyer.

Circle this date: Michigan plays at Illinois on Oct. 20.

And so much for Miles someday getting the Michigan job: The coach, who played for Bo Schembechler and was a longtime Wolverines assistant, voted Florida No. 2.

Miles has always been on the short list of possible successors to Lloyd Carr.

Well, at least he had been.

And the winner was ...

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy two days from now in ceremonies in New York.

Wasn't it exciting?

Smith wore a tuxedo, smiled a lot and said all the right things.

It was Ohio State's seventh Heisman but the first for Smith, who trails former Buckeye Archie Griffin by one.

Enough of that foregone conclusion, let's try to identify next year's winner:

If Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma), Dwayne Jarrett (USC), Brian Brohm (Louisville) and Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech) don't turn professional, well, wouldn't that be shocking ... which would leave us with these contenders (assuming they stay):

1. Darren McFadden, running back, Arkansas. Best recovery from a preseason bar fight in recent memory. McFadden rebounded to rush for 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns.

2. John David Booty, quarterback, USC. If J.D. (Just Deflected) Booty was actually 6 feet 3, as he's listed in the program, USC might be undefeated and playing for the national title.

Booty put up terrific numbers this season but lacked the intangible, finish-it factor possessed by predecessor Matt Leinart.

Maybe he'll find "it" in the Rose Bowl, or in the off-season.

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