The University of Florida hasn’t won a football game in a month. Its current losing streak is its worst in 11 years. Its early-season victories came against opponents with a combined 14-16 record.
It just hasn’t been much of a season for the Gators, something even the most ardent UF fan would acknowledge. Hey, it happens. Tim Tebow isn’t walking through that door.
There’s a reason not a single coaches’ poll ballot has featured Florida for a couple of weeks.
All of this appears lost on an unknown number of Harris Poll voters who continue to defy even minimal standards of awareness, respect and effort.
Last week, we laughed when the Gators wound up ranked 29th in the Harris Poll with 47 points. You get one point for being ranked 25th, two for 24th and so on. Assuming there isn’t a completely brain dead voter or two that still has the Gators in the top five, it meant there could be a stunning 15 or 20 voters who were unaware that Florida had just lost to Mississippi State at home.
The game ended late last Saturday and, with all due respect, the Harris Poll voters aren’t exactly the most youthful lot in America. It’s a lot retired sports information directors, retired referees and retired administrators. Maybe the morning paper didn’t have the score and firing up the Internet tubes before actually voting was just too time-consuming.
Since the ballots are secret, we have no idea who is asleep at the wheel. We figured it would be corrected, a one-time joke.
Only the Harris Poll came out again and Florida received the same 47 points. Even better, the Gators moved up to 28th despite having an off week.
So apparently the voters still don’t know Florida is having a lousy year.
Fans understandably focus on the top of the poll. You’ll learn just as much about the competency of these enterprises by looking at the back. How can anyone trust the judgment of a voter that isn’t aware Florida’s last victory was on Sept. 25?
You can’t. It’s why the BCS formula is so patently ridiculous.
We do an entire chapter on the polls in Death to the BCS, so I won’t bother rehashing it. But in the absence of a rightful playoff, it remains mind-numbing that a sport would employ this system.
Remember, the Harris Poll voters were hand-selected by the BCS. These are the establishment’s people. In its infinite wisdom, the BCS deemed these 114 voters the most uniquely qualified group of individuals in America to determine college football’s championship matchup.
And yet a decent portion keeps voting for Florida.
(In the Associated Press poll, the Gators inexplicably received a 24th-place vote from the Hartford Courant’s Desmond Conner. He didn’t include Mississippi State, one of just two voters not to do so. That’s a thoughtless ballot, but the AP poll has no impact on the actual championship system. It’s a harmless, pointless opinion poll. The Harris Poll matters.)
Every week, I’m at a stadium or in a coach’s office or a locker room, and on the wall hangs some motivational motto. College football loves things like “commitment” and “accountability” and “hard work” and “reliability.” Life skills, the coaches will say, even if they really just want the punt team to properly pick up a block.
Still, college football demands excellence. The players work relentlessly — from the endless, early-morning offseason conditioning to the drain of spring practice to the heat index of summer two-a-days. They sacrifice. They battle. They push on.
Then there are the coaches that nearly kill themselves with work. Nick Saban and MarDantonio and Jim Harbaugh and Gary Patterson and Urban Meyer and Bo Pelini and on and on the list of perfectionists go. They set the tone for this sport.
Problems are fixed. Weaknesses are addressed. Mediocrity, failure and disinterest are not tolerated.
Their collective effort — coaches and players alike — merit respect from the people empowered with making or breaking their seasons.
Instead, we get the Harris Poll and another week of head-in-the-sand excuse making from the BCS.