January 8, 2009

Final coaches' poll doesn't determine champion

If Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Texas' Mack Brown want to break ranks with fellow coaches by voting their teams No. 1, their votes will be tallied – but they won't count.

The American Football Coaches Association, which selects the panelists for the coaches' poll and awards the Coaches' Trophy to the national champion, will remind the 61 voters that the coaches' champion will be Florida – the winner of Thursday's BCS Championship Game – regardless of how they fill out their ballots.

But USA Today, which receives and counts the ballots, will tabulate the final ballots as they are sent. Coaches will be instructed to vote for Nos. 2 through 25, but USA Today will include all "reasonable votes." Those would include first-place votes for undefeated Utah or one-loss Texas. The Longhorns accounted for Oklahoma's one loss this season.

Coaches who don't follow AFCA policy will not be removed from the poll, AFCA spokesman Todd Bell said.

Whittingham and Brown, who vote in the coaches' poll this season, said after their bowl victories that they intended to vote their teams No. 1 in the final ballot. After his team's 38-24 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl, USC coach Pete Carroll said the Trojans "can beat anyone," but he doesn't have a vote in the poll.

Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, the coaches have been instructed to vote the winner of the title game as the No. 1 team. In 2003, three coaches voted USC No. 1 after LSU defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS championship. Since then, every final coaches' No. 1 has been unanimous. The only split title of the BCS era came in '03, when The Associated Press crowned USC as the national champion after the Trojans beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

In the final regular-season poll, which was released Dec. 7, four coaches had Texas at the top of their ballots then-Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, North Texas coach Todd Dodge, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel and UTEP coach Mike Price.

Utah's highest ranking was fifth; three coaches ranked the Utes that high Whittingham, Florida coach Urban Meyer and then-Wyoming coach Joe Glenn.

No coaches voted USC higher than third in the Dec. 8 ballot.

The AP national championship is independent from the BCS, and its pollsters sports writers and broadcasters can vote for which team they want as the champion. Four teams received first-place votes in last season's final AP poll BCS titlist LSU with 60 votes, Georgia with three and USC and Kansas with one apiece.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.


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