One of the questions I get the most throughout the prep football season is, how do you guys vote on the poll and why is (fill in the blank), ranked above/below (fill the blank again).
I usually try to go through the whole system, but let me use this forum to lay it out in the open, along with my feelings on the poll, having been a writer with 16 years of voting on prep football, basketball, baseball and softball polls.
Honestly, I think the polls are a bit of a joke. Here are some of the problems.
1) Writers are very territorial for their respective teams. This is not necessarily a bad thing in prep sports, as people want to read about their respective teams in their area and all want to believe their teams are the best. When it comes to polls, writers who cover the same teams week in and week out tend to give them a little more support. I for one am guilty of it and anyone who says they’re not is not telling the truth.
2) The writers get too wrapped up in the records of the teams and not with the strength of schedule. There are some schools and leagues where the competition is not very strong and teams run up 6-0 or 7-0 records without playing anyone halfway decent. Does this warrant a higher ranking than say a team like Pittsburg, who is 4-3, but counts losses to Valley Christian-San Jose and Logan among their three defeats? I say no and continue to vote Pitt around the top 10. You can’t expect me to believe Pitt wouldn’t walk through half the leagues in the East Bay without a loss. The Pirates deserve to be a top 10 team, even with their record. What about a team like Granada? The Mats have only two wins, but have lost to Deer Valley, Vintage, Monte Vista, San Ramon Valley and Foothill. The loss to San Ramon was only 19-9 and they scored 35 points on Monte Vista. The Mats would be a threat to win at least four leagues in the East Bay this year, but they suffer because they are in the EBAL. This brings out the problem where writers don’t vote for the deserving teams, but rather the best records.
3) Strength of league is ignored. Heading into the EBAL season, the league had teams ranked Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. When they start beating up on each other _ what else did you think would happen _ some voters started questioning how strong the league actually was. People, it’s pretty basic. Someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. How do you penalize the No. 6 team for losing to No. 3 in a good game? You shouldn’t, but others don’t seem to understand those logical thoughts.
4) Only one poll is also a problem. In the 80’s we had two polls, with the teams split based on size. The best idea would be for us to have a 4-A/3-A poll, then a 2-A a poll, voting only for the top 10. At least someone other than De La Salle would be able to make a claim to being No. 1.
5) The De La Salle factor. Anyone else tired of De La Salle always being No. 1 in the poll? The Spartans are a tremendous team every year and fully deserving of all the recognition they have gotten. But it gets very boring every week voting in the poll and putting DLS at the top. And as long as Lad is running the show, it’s not going to change. If you honestly think it’s going to change this year, then come talk to me, I’ve got some property in Florida I’d love to sell you.
All in the all, polls are a good idea, as they do provoke some discussion. But don’t take them too seriously. Generally speaking, the majority of people voting on the poll don’t take the time they should to look at all the leagues and the respective strength of schedule. They see wins and losses and nothing else. It’s far from a perfect system and it wouldn’t be too tough to make it better. Here’s hoping it happens in the near future.
Dennis Miller, Tri-Valley Herald sports editor