LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Poll-voting coaches are perceived as having a 'back-room deal' unless they make public their ballots, the NCAA board chairman said this week.
University of Kansas chancellor Robert Hemenway criticized the coaches who participate in the Coaches poll that came under such BCS scrutiny last season.
Voting coaches have refused to publicly release their ballots citing a variety of reasons. But the conflict-of-interest outcry has become loud enough that all 117 Division I-A coaches are being asked by their professional organization to consider releasing votes to the public. The American Football Coaches Association is expected to contact all I-A head coaches about the issue after this weekend.
"I'll be very up front with you," Hemenway said. "I think it's ridiculous that the coaches are not revealing what their vote is. There's not transparency in that. It gives the sense that there is some kind of back room deal."
Hemenway chairs the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, the association's main policy-making body. While the board has no direct influence over the voting coaches' policy, Hemenway said there is a larger issue of honesty.
"I don't think coaches would do that," he said of improprieties, "but you can't leave the impression that coaches are doing that. That goes to this issue of integrity. If you're thinking about what is the integrity of your institution, you're coming to some easy decisions on things like that."
Facing increasing criticism during the 2004 season, the 61 voting coaches voted 32-29 against revealing their ballots in November. Earlier, the Football Writers Association of America had drafted a letter to AFCA executive director Grant Teaff asking that ballots be revealed.
After the season, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Fort Worth Star-Telegram filed Freedom of Information requests seeking the final ballots of the coaches at the 55 voting coaches at public universities. Cal, Wyoming and Washington State complied.
The voting coaches' possible conflicts of interest are obvious. Without the light of public scrutiny, coaches could be free to reward themselves or the coaches in their own conference. In essence, the voters could have a hand in lining their own pockets -- and those of their conferences -- with bowl money.
Slightly more than half of 117 coaches attended a I-A coaches meeting at the AFCA's annual convention earlier this month. A few coaches responded to a questionnaire asking: 1) would you be willing to releasing ballots each week or 2) would you be willing to release ballots after the regular season and if so, 3) would you participate as a voter?
The AFCA will attempt to get a larger sample of its members after this weekend's Hula Bowl in Hawaii. The association is a partner in staging the annual All-Star Game.
Results aren't expected until next month at the earliest. Meanwhile, BCS commissioners are deciding whether to add a human selection committee to the process. Last month, the Associated Press asked the commissioners not to use its poll. Because of that, it is assumed that another BCS component (poll or committee) will be added.
One name mentioned prominently for a human committee is Gene Corrigan, a former ACC commissioner, Notre Dame athletic director and NCAA membership president.