College Football Polls
Associated Press (AP) Poll
The AP college football poll is one of the oldest still in
existence and has a long history. Some of the problems with the poll is that
the first ranking is before the season and teams not rank high in the
opening poll have a very difficult time moving ahead of higher ranked teams
and that the sports life in the larger cities and may be bias to teams there.
Because of the long-standing historical ties between high revenue generating
bowl games like the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl and the major college
football conferences the NCAA has never held a tournament or championship
game to determine the champion of the highest division in college football.
The Football Bowl Subdivision, (formerly, NCAA Division I-A) does not have a
championship but the lower divisions do hold championship tournaments. As a
result of there being no Division One championship game, playoff or
tournament, The AP and other news organizations began having their own polls
of sports writers to determine who was, in the opinion of the writers, the
best football team in the country. These polls were at the end of the
season, some counting the bowl game and some not counting the bowl game. The
Associated Press College Football Poll was one of the earliest such polls.
The AP Poll, first run in 1934 and then continuously from 1936 on. The
public and the media began to take the leading vote-getter in the final AP
Poll as the national champion for that season.
Bowl Games Counted
The final AP poll, (and most other polls,) of
the season was released following the end of the regular season, not
counting the bowl game, until the 1965 season. In 1965 The Associated Press
poll consisted of the votes of 55 sportswriters. Each writer give
their opinion of the ten best teams based on a point system. Under the
system of 10 points for first place, 9 for second, and so, the ranking was
determined. The 1964 Alabama Crimson Tide, coached by legendary coach Paul
Bear Bryant, completed the regular season 10-0-0, winning the Southeastern
Conference championship. Alabama was then invited to play the Texas
Longhorns in the January 1, 1965 Orange Bowl. Coach Bryant's team lost to
the #5 ranked Texas Longhorns 21-17 to finish the season
10-1-0, leaving Arkansas as the only
undefeated, untied team after the Razorbacks defeated 7th ranked
Nebraska in the Cotton
Bowl. Since the AP Poll was before the bowl game, once-beaten Alabama's was
awarded AP's national championship, despite the fact that Arkansas had
beaten Texas during the season. Because of the Alabama controversy, the AP
Poll decided to wait until after the bowl games to select their champion in
the 1965 season.
In 1965, the AP's decision to wait to crown its champion paid
handsomely, as top-ranked Michigan State lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl,
number two Arkansas lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, and fourth-ranked
Alabama defeated third-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, vaulting the
Crimson Tide to the top of the AP's final poll (Michigan State was named
national champion in the final United Press International poll of coaches,
which did not conduct a post-bowl poll).
The AP Voters' "Make Up"
It must be said that although the University of Alabama
did get a national championship that they really didn't deserve in 1965,
(for the 1964 season,) the AP voters' made up for it by robbing Bama of a
national championship in in 1967, (for the 1966 season.) In the final AP
poll, 9-0-1 Notre Dame was the overwhelming choice of the writers for the AP
Trophy, with 41 of the 56 first place votes, and Michigan State was second.
Alabama, which had gone unbeaten and and untied, and had won the Sugar Bowl
against Nebraska, still finished third. Georgia, whose only blemish had been
a one-point loss to the Miami Hurricanes, was fourth and UCLA was fifth.
At the end of the 1947 season when the AP released an
unofficial post-bowl poll which differed from the regular season final poll.
The AP national championship was awarded before bowl games were played.
Beginning in the 1968 season, a post bowl game poll was
released and the AP championship reflected the bowl game results. The UPI
did not follow suit with the coaches' poll until the 1974 season.
AP Poll inclusion in the BCS
In1997, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was developed
to try to unify the poll results by picking two teams for a "real" national
championship game. For the first several years the AP Poll factored in the
determination of the BCS rankings, along with other factors including the
Coaches Poll and computer-based polls. Because of a series of controversies
surrounding the BCS, the AP demanded in December, 2004, that its poll no
longer be used in the BCS rankings, and so the 2004-2005 season was the last
season that the AP Poll was used for this purpose.
Starting with the 1998 season, the AP Poll factored in the
determination of the BCS rankings, along with other factors including the
Coaches Poll and computer-based polls. The BCS system did not get permission
from the Associated Press, but the AP did not initially voice serious
concern. However two major problems in the 2003 and 2004 seasons resulted in
the AP asking to be removed after the 2004 season
In the 2003 season the BCS system broke down when the
next-to-final BCS poll ranked the University of Southern California (USC) at
#3 while the two human polls in the system had ranked USC at #1. As a
result, USC did not play in the BCS' designated national championship game.
After defeating another highly ranked team in its final game, the AP Poll
kept USC at #1 while the Coaches Poll was contractually obligated to select
the winner of the BCS game, Louisiana State University (LSU), as the #1
team. The resulting split national title was the very problem that the BCS
was created to solve, and has been widely considered an embarrassment.
In 2004, a new controversy erupted at the end of the
season when, Auburn University, who finished the regular season 12-0 after
winning the Southeastern Conference Championship game, was left out of the
BCS title game in favor of Oklahoma who also was 12-0 and had won decisively
over Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game. USC went on to a win over
Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and Auburn won their bowl game, leaving two
undefeated teams at the end of the season. Also, in that same year, Texas
made up late ground on California (Cal) in the BCS standings and as a result
grabbed a high-payout, at-large spot in the Rose Bowl. Previous to that
poll, Cal had been ranked ahead of Texas in both human polls and the BCS
poll. Both teams won their game that week, but the Texas Coach, Mack Brown,
had made a public effort to lobby for his team to be moved higher in the
ranking. When the human polls were released, Texas remained behind Cal, but
it had closed the gap enough so that the BCS Poll (which determines
placement) placed Texas above Cal, angering both Cal and its conference, the
Pac-10. The AP Poll voters were caught in the middle because their vote
changes were automatically made public, while the votes of the Coaches poll
were kept confidential. Although there had been a more substantial shift in
the votes of the Coaches Poll, the only clear targets for the ire of
fanatical fans were the voters in the AP Poll. While officials from both Cal
and the Pac-10 called for the coaches' votes to be made public, the
overtures were turned down and did little to solve the problem of AP voters.
Many members of the press who voted in the AP Poll were
upset by the fiasco and, at the behest of its members, the AP asked that its
poll no longer be used in the BCS rankings. The 2004 season was the last
season that the AP Poll was used in the BCS rankings, it was replaced in the
BCS equation by the newly created
Interactive College Football Poll.