At Opposite Polls: College Basketball, Football Much Ado about Polls Deciding National Champ

Article excerpt

Master of detail that he is, Lou Holtz already is working on next season's big game at Florida State.

The Irish will lodge in Orlando. Holtz plans trips to Disney World and the Epcot Center. There will be no practice that week.

Why?

"Obviously that game doesn't count," Holtz said.

Two months after the fact, Holtz hasn't settled down. He thinks his Notre Dame Fighting Irish deserve at least half of college football's national championship. Can you blame him?

Holtz' team loses one game all season.

Florida State loses one game all season - to Notre Dame.

Yet Florida State is crowned champion by both The Associated Press (media) poll and the USA Today/CNN (coaches) poll.

"Somebody explain to me why we did not win it?" Holtz said in a recent telephone interview. "I've gotten 37 articles sent to me. I can give you the names of the people that wrote the articles."

Columnists, Holtz says, from San Diego to Jacksonville, Fla.

"And these 37 people all felt that we deserved the national championship," Holtz said.

He's gotten similar feedback from coaches. "If every coach that I talked to voted for us that said they did, I'd have that sucker recounted," Holtz said.

Holtz isn't the only one who remains riled up.

"We still get mail," said Sal Ruibal, a college sports editor at USA Today who helps coordinate the coaches poll. "We just got a stack of maybe 20 letters that came in just this week - still about the football poll."

All in Holtz's handwriting?

No, Ruibal said, laughing. "Lots of postmarks from Nebraska."

Why the fuss?

Because every championship from cross country to lacrosse is decided on the field in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Everything except major-college football.

Things were bad enough on pollsters when there were just bowl games and final polls. But for the past two seasons, there have been bowl games, final polls and a bowl coalition which decides top bowl matchups based on poll results.

Which puts the sporting press in the unusual position of making the news rather than reporting it.

"We're blurring a line there that I don't think should be blurred," said Steve Wieberg, who covers college sports for USA Today. "I know a lot of writers, a lot of friends of mine, who were uncomfortable this past season with the role that they were playing."

No one more so than Loren Tate of the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette. Tate, 62, has covered college sports since 1956. He has been a voter on either the AP football or basketball polls for years.

But last football season got to be too much, particularly the week after Notre Dame defeated Florida State. …