President’s column: Introducing the FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

2014 FWAA President Kirk Bohls

Hope you didn’t miss it with all the hubbub over Bob Costas’s eye infection at the Winter Olympics and Johnny Manziel’s 40 time at the NFL Combine, but our Football Writers Association of America recently announced – a little drum roll, please – a new college football poll.

I’m sure all of you have been scratching your heads wondering why there hasn’t been another football poll lately. As for enduring questions of our time, it’s right up there with the whereabouts of Sasquatch and Lane Kiffin’s memoirs.

Well, wonder no more. This is big news, folks.

We do have our reasons why our 1,350 member-strong FWAA has collaborated with the prestigious National Football Foundation, our long-time partner since the 1940s, to launch the first “FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16” poll this coming fall.

Why not? That could be one simple reason, but we had far better rationale behind our plan.

I think we would all agree this is a momentous time in the history of college football as the very first playoff for the major division will be ushered in with a four-team tournament culminating with the championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, next Jan. 12.

I’m not saying the 13-member College Football Playoff Selection Committee needs more help or any help at all. I figure Archie Manning and Tom Osborne know a good football team when they see one. And Condoleezza Rice has waded her way through far more difficult challenges as U.S. Secretary of State than she will as a committee member deciding between the fourth and fifth best teams in major-college football.

But shouldn’t the committee have the benefit of another, new poll that could tap into the knowledge and experience and insight of a distinguished panel of 36 voters as an additional resource? It should give terrific exposure to both the FWAA and the NFF and at the same time fill a much-needed void for these heavily scrutinized deliberations since there will be no clear-cut criteria or formula for selecting the four teams.

What our new poll will provide that the Associated Press poll and the coaches’ poll do not is a totally unbiased, well-thought-out ranking that relies upon the insight of 26 outstanding FWAA writers as well as 10 former coaches, Hall of Fame players and administrators supplied by the NFF, which tabulated and released the Bowl Championship Series standings for 14 seasons.

I have voted on the AP poll for almost a quarter of a century and consider it a privilege, but I think the FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16 poll doesn’t have some of the same geographic limitations of the AP poll. Yet the new poll will maintain a regionally diverse and geographically balanced look.

As for the coaches’ poll, that entity represents a bigger conflict of interest than Congress setting its own pension terms. Coaches have financial clauses in their contracts tied to national rankings and also have clearly been known to hold grudges against other coaches or other conferences and tend to protect their own. Moreover, current coaches who vote in their poll have neither the time nor energy to focus on watching other teams on weekends. Nor should they be committed to that task instead of preparing their teams for games each week.

The FWAA has administered its own preseason polls and weekly polls before, so this isn’t a totally new concept for us. Plus, unlike the coaches’ poll, our panelists’ votes will be made public each and every week.

Why 16 teams? Well, with four spots up for grabs, the number 16 seems to be mathematically appropriate, and our purpose is not to identify teams for the secondary bowls. As a rule, we as writers have long insisted that we are not in the business of creating the news. And that should never change. We report the news, but we also comment vigorously on the news and occasionally shape the news in terms of what comes next. In this instance, we are simply trying to assist those who will make the news.

This doesn’t qualify as man bites dog, but perhaps man helps dog sink his teeth into something meaningful. We will announce our voters during the summer. Our poll tentatively will debut in mid-September, probably three weeks into the season when some teams have already separated themselves, and will conclude on Dec. 7, the day after the conference championship games.

Both of these organizations have used panels to determine the recipients of their respective national championship trophies. The NFF has presented the MacArthur Bowl to the winner since 1959, and the FWAA predates it, having handed out the Grantland Rice Trophy to its national champion every year since 1954.

The FWAA will not give out a trophy to the national champion moving forward, but with this poll we may have some influence on just which team is holding the ultimate trophy on the night of Jan. 12.

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