UPI's 42 coaches are distributed more evenly geographically, six each for seven sections of the country: East, Midwest, South, Midlands, Southwest, Mountain and Pacific. Until this year coaches voted for only 10 teams, 10 points being awarded for first, nine for second, one for 10th. Voting for only 10 teams presents two problems. Any coach honestly believing his team worthy of 19th or 20th place in the poll must vote it 10th if he wants to get any recognition at all. It has also happened that as few as 17 teams have been mentioned in certain weeks, so that UPI's Top 20 has come up three short. This season UPI is asking its coaches to rank 15 teams.
Just which coaches vote is up to two men in UPI's New York office, Fred McMane and Bill Madden. There is little change in the panel from year to year, but McMane and Madden do check with the bureau chiefs to see if any one coach is giving them trouble. Ballots are due Monday noon, but like the AP's, they are generally late. And it is not unusual for UPI to release its poll missing a vote or two. As noted, only 39 coaches voted in last year's final poll.
Now let us take a closer look at the two vignettes related earlier. Do sports information directors ever vote for their coaches? Most definitely, but how many do is difficult to determine. Some coaches "consult with their SIDs." Others have the SIDs phone in "my picks." A few freely admit they leave it up to the SID. When Iowa's Bob Commings is too busy, which is generally when he is on the road, he lets SID George Wine make the selections. Bill Dooley, who coached at North Carolina last year and is now with Virginia Tech, says, "I let my SID vote for me, but I give him input from week to week. I keep him informed about how I feel regarding the rankings. I probably spend about five minutes on it."
Woody Hayes of Ohio State is technically a voting coach, but he defers to an assistant, Line Coach Alex Gibbs, which partly explains Woody's puzzling comment after last year's 35-6 loss in the Sugar Bowl to Alabama: "If I had a vote I'd give it to Alabama."
Gibbs became Hayes' stand-in one year when UPI did not receive Woody's final ballot after Ohio State had been beaten in the Rose Bowl. The local UPI man asked Hayes for his vote and was lucky to come out alive. Hayes was nearly dropped from the board. Now Gibbs votes, perhaps consulting Hayes before he does.
When Dan Devine was with Missouri, he would vote for only nine teams and let his wife fill in the 10th. She would usually pick Missouri or the team Missouri was about to play.
Which leads us to: Do coaches use their poll for their own purposes? Of course. Remember when Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler was tossed off the UPI board? A couple of years ago virtually every coach had Ohio State No. 1. Bo voted Missouri No. 1. New York asked its man in Detroit, Rich Shook, to question Schembechler. "Do you really want Missouri?" Shook asked. "If you don't like the way I vote, take me off the board," said Bo. UPI did. It so happened Michigan was playing Missouri the next week.
Bill Finley of the San Diego Union noticed something strange a couple of years ago. "San Diego State used to play North Texas State every year," he says. "A week before the game, San Diego would always jump up there in the UPI rankings. Now I can't prove it, but I'll bet that Hayden Fry, the North Texas coach, voted San Diego a lot higher than he should have the week before the game."
Gene Caddes, the Ohio bureau sports chief for UPI, says, "Do coaches use the polls? Are you kidding? Last season some coaches of teams in competition for the top spot—in fact, the winner of the national championship—left Ohio State completely off his Top Ten when it was 8-1, with only that one-point loss to Oklahoma. Barry Switzer, who beat the Buckeyes 29-28, left the Buckeyes off two weeks in a row. We asked Oklahoma City the second week to query Switzer on how he could leave Ohio State off and put Kentucky on when Kentucky wasn't even eligible because it was on probation."
Most coaches admit to some regional partisanship, especially after they have indicated their top five choices. There is a natural tendency to vote for teams you have seen, especially teams that have beaten you. There is also a tendency to vote for coaching friends and for teams in the same conference. LaVell Edwards of Brigham Young freely admits to a certain amount of regional partisanship. "Without it," he says, "some very good teams would never get a mention." Which is true. Only recently have teams in the WAC received any notice in the polls. Some years back Arizona State could be 6-0 toward midseason and be ranked 15th behind many teams with one loss and a couple of big powers, such as USC or Alabama, with two. When Arizona State would lose, it would drop out of the Top 20.