When 'Playboy' calls
When college students think of Playboy, football probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But since 1957, the magazine's All-American team has been a fixture in the sports world. This year, everyone's favorite 18-and-over publication reached out to 31 of the nation's premiere college sports writers and editors and asked them to vote on a preseason top 25 poll. SIOC hooked-up with four of the pollsters to find out what it's like for a college student when Playboy calls.
Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USC student and sports editor of The Daily Trojan:
While I was talking to one of my writers over the summer about an article for the Daily Trojan's orientation issue, I saw I had another call on my phone. I didn't recognize the number and I was having an important discussion, so I let it go to voicemail. When I listened, I heard something about playboy.com wanting to work with me.
Suddenly, I wished I had picked up.
I called back and found out Playboy was assembling a college football poll with sports writers from college newspapers. As an avid college football fan, I thought it would be a great opportunity to voice my outlook.
So far, no incidents have ensued. That's more than I can say for my time at the Daily Trojan, though. Every week, our sports section does something called "Best Bets," in which we pick seven college football games against the spread. One week, I decided to pick Washington State to cover a more than five-touchdown spread against USC. I was the only one to do it and paid for my boldness, as the Trojans went on to roll.
But I wasn't done paying for my mistake.
The next week at practice, I wanted to interview defensive end Lawrence Jackson. When I introduced myself, he gave me an incredulous look and asked "Aren't you that guy who picked against us last week?"
Lawrence Jackson is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds. I am 5-foot-10, 140 pounds.
I tried to explain myself, but I don't think Lawrence was having any of it.
Dan Murphy, Notre Dame student and sports editor of The Observer:
When Playboy first contacted me this summer, I was excited but also a bit nervous. Getting the opportunity to write for a professional website as well-known as Playboy is a great chance for any young writer.
However, coming from a school that hangs a crucifix in every single classroom on campus, I wasn't sure how well it would go over with the powers that be here at Notre Dame.
My father was a little upset that he had spent eight years sending me to catholic schools so that I could end up in Playboy, and my friends wanted to know when my centerfold shots would be coming out. Luckily, the good folks at Playboy only asked for a headshot and no one will ever know what color lingerie I was wearing in the picture.
When the ballots were finally cast, I found mine wasn't too far from what the AP and USA Today had decided a week or so before. I used those polls a little bit to help with my choices but there were a few differences between myself and the pollsters that I still stand by.
Alabama was a team I had slotted just outside of the top 10. Nick Saban and the rising Tide have looked good thus far, and despite a tough SEC schedule, I think they will continue to climb the ladder. I also had USC at the top of my list to start the year. I think most writers were just tired of seeing the Trojans at No. 1 and wanted something to talk about. USC has a tough test coming up against Ohio State, but they have too many weapons not to be considered the best in the country.
Sara Salam, UCLA student and sports editor of The Daily Bruin:
My Playboy knowledge had always been framed by two things: the comments my male friends exchanged on a regular basis and the images I associated with the world-famous mansion in Bel Air (which happens to be right across the way from where I go to school -- and no, I've never been). So when the magazine first contacted me, I was curious and excited more than anything.
When I asked my editor if I could participate in the poll, he said it was cool, as long as I felt comfortable doing it. Prior to that comment I'd never questioned my comfort level, and I found it funny that he brought it up. A) College football is awesome, so why would I not participate in the poll? and B) I think it's great that Playboy is actively reaching out to the collegiate sports community. I was sold from the beginning. No reassessment needed.
In terms of my rankings and preseason picks, each year I remain unconvinced that analyzing the field prior to week one will produce a good forecast of the ensuing season. But that doesn't mean preseason polls aren't a useful basis for analysis. Right now, comparing Playboy's All-American team and rankings with my own picks serves as a solid analytic exercise, but isn't cause for serious debate. Ask me again mid-season, though, and then we'll talk.
Corey DeMoss, Oklahoma student and sports editor of the Oklahoma Daily:
To be honest, when I was first contacted by Playboy to be a part of the poll, I was in a state of disbelief. It actually took me a couple hours to realize I had just been asked to work with such a well-established and recognizable brand, and then I felt honored to be included.
At a college newspaper, one of the main goals is attempting to gain as much exposure as possible. But that generally just means trying to get websites or other publications to print something you've already written for your paper. That isn't nearly as satisfying as participating in the creation of original content on a website as well-respected as Playboy.
As a writer, it was a great exercise to get me thinking about all the nation's other teams. Reporting at a campus newspaper generally tends to make you think exclusively about your school, and sometimes I lose touch with what is happening nationwide. But sitting down and thinking about all 25 of the nation's top teams made me realize just how much talent is out there.
When I looked at the first AP Poll, it was eerily similar to mine. There were a couple teams rearranged in a few places, but for the most part they were incredibly similar. There were only two teams I put in the top 25 that the AP didn't -- Utah and Fresno State -- and both were in the standings the next week.
I've always fashioned myself a college football buff, but had never really gotten any confirmation that I knew what I was talking about. Compiling my own top 25, however, did (to a degree) prove that I'm fairly knowledgeable about the sport.
Assisting Playboy with its poll has now actually made me even more excited about the college football season. I now have an even deeper sense of pride in my work. Just being able to see my name on the website is invigorating, and it makes me want to make absolutely sure that I keep the quality of all my work high. So I'm grateful to be allowed to participate, and hope to take part in as many future features as possible.
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