Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New student-run football poll might be fun

There’s an interesting poll set to kick off next football season, one where college students determine the rankings.

The founders of this poll seem like spirited fans who want to do something for the fun of it. Isn’t that what sports are all about?

Polls used to be a way to debate the best football teams in the country, prompting fun-loving discussions in bars and dorm rooms – until these polls were co-opted to determine who would play in the Bowl Championship Series. Everybody else then scrambles to find the highest-paying bowl game instead of working toward earning a national title. The BCS is fueled by the greed of major sports conferences.

So now two former students – Igor Khayet and Daniel Singer – have started a poll run exclusively by college students. might add some fun back into the college football debates.

But do not take it too seriously. Despite what the founders believe, this poll will not be more informed than those run by the Associated Press, USA Today and others. The Associated Press poll includes professional writers who have much more experience, insight, and contacts than college reporters. I knew one sports editor who even ranked every football team in the country that included key stats and explanations – all off the top of his head. Now that’s impressive.

Khayet told the Georgetown Voice: “I think it is arbitrary to have coaches and AP writers do the rankings. Students are the ones who wait in line for hours to get tickets, who wake up and drink before 10 a.m. games on Saturday mornings and who follow a team for four years in a row, and not just in March. They are the ones with the knowledge.”

Drinking, waiting in line and watching one’s home team hardly makes someone an expert on college football. How does this inform perspectives on other teams across the country? More likely, these drinking, rooting fans will be ‘homers.’

Readers often believe their hometown paper’s reporters are biased toward certain teams, like the man who called our office at the Orlando Sentinel several years ago to complain that we must not like the Big 12 teams (when, in fact, our writer had actually graduated from Kansas State.)

So far, the website’s founders say they have secured 30 students. They say another 20 schools have verbally committed. (So far, our college newspaper, The Daily Eastern News, is not a voting member.) In addition, the site includes blogs, stories and a question of the day.

“In terms of how the website got started, the idea actually originated simply as a weekly poll, similar to the existing AP and Coaches polls,” Singer told me. “We then realized the greater opportunity here to create something of a hub for sports discourse from a student journalist perspective. That we are both political science students is fairly tangential, as what really motivates us here is little more than avid college sports interest.”

Ultimately, the poll will probably be nothing more than entertainment, which, really, is how any poll should be viewed. So why not another poll voted on exclusively by college journalists? Perhaps, the site will gather college sports journalists (and fans) together for some spirited debate.

For now, our newspaper’s sports writers do not blog or write stories for this site, seeing as they are way too busy doing this for beats on our daily and online publications (and doing a fine job, by the way). But might engage writers at other college papers who publish less frequently – or for sports reporters who want to do more than their publications offer.

Check out the site for yourself and let me know what you think (by posting some comments here.) If all goes well, the site could be fun to follow. I wish them luck.



Daniel Singer said...

Thanks for the writeup, but a couple of clarifications seem in order.

First, we are not just signing up random students, as you imply. All of our voting members are college sports editors. Surely you'd concede that collegiate sports editors have an elevated level of collegiate sports knowledge.

Second, we have 50--not 30--schools confirmed, with dozens of daily publications committed.

Finally, we in no way seek to replace or one-up the existing polls. We just want to supplement them with the student perspective.

But I have no problem with your approach to our project. We aren't claiming this is some sort of scientific, controlled lab study. It's, above all, meant to be interesting and entertaining, which, to me, is what sports is all about.

Thanks again for the mention.

Joe Gisondi said...

Thanks for the clarification. I know you are signing up college sports editors who usually have an elevated level of interest in sports, just not to the level of most professionals. But that's okay for this poll. Glad to see the number has grown since the article was published in the Voice. Like I said, this seems like a fun, worthy project. Best of luck.