Earlier this week, Lane Kiffin was asked about whether he voted his Trojans No. 1 in the coaches' preseason poll. He said that he wouldn't do something like that, even though new Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez suggested that he did. After hearing Kiffin's comments, USA Today chose to respond by releasing the vote in question, thereby confirming the story Rodriguez had earlier laid out. Kiffin was exposed, then had to backtrack and even explain his reasoning behind putting USC at the top, even though he really shouldn't have had to.
The poll is a sham already since these coaches don't spend time watching other teams. The majority of their time is spent preparing throughly for the schools they will be facing. This idea that they find occasion to sit in front of a television and analyze other college football games is ridiculous. For someone to come out and wave a finger in Kiffin's direction is laughable, especially when you have a coach in Rodriguez who has often had fingers pointed at him.
The fact that the Trojans' coach came out and said that he asked for assistance in filling out the poll should indicate the worthless nature of this activity. The old joke goes that the coach gives his ballot to the school's Sports Information Director, and tells him to do the best he can. It'd probably be funny if it wasn't for the fact that it's entirely true. The reason USA Today claims that they released Kiffin's vote was to combat the "providing of false or misleading information" to the public and a desire to "set the record straight to protect the poll's integrity."
Integrity, huh? They must be referring to 1997, when then-#1 Michigan beat Ryan Leaf's Washington State outfit 21-16 in the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines were the top-ranked team in both the Associated Press and Coaches' polls coming into the game. But since Tom Osbourne was retiring after the Orange Bowl the following night, this fraternity of brethren rewarded their Hall-of-Fame coach with yet another national title. Seemingly forgetting Michigan's performance a day earlier, the coaches allowed Nebraska to leapfrog Lloyd Carr's team in the polls, causing what would turn out to be a split national championship.
The lack of coach involvement, and the obvious politics involved in giving Tom Osbourne a going-away present, should permit anyone to spit upon the pious attitude these poll directors arrogantly cling to. ESPN, no strangers to piouty themselves, nevertheless got out of the business in 2005, ending their co-sponsorship with USA Today because of shady voting claims. To throw out integrity altogether by publishing Kiffin's vote should be enough to ensure their dis-involvement in any future playoff scenario.
Ask Roger Federer who the greatest tennis player of all time is; he'd say himself. Ask Michael Jordan who the best basketball player of all time is; he'll claim that it's him. Ask Bozo who the funniest clown ever was, and he'll toot his own horn, literally. So getting after Kiffin for believing that he's got the nation's best team is a little short-sighted, as too is the notion that he has to defend the logic behind picking his choice.