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Football Coaches’ Poll Goes Confidential (Again)

The final regular-season ballots in the USA TODAY Top 25 Coaches' Poll will no longer be made public beginning with the 2010 season, the American Football Coaches Association announced Wednesday, a decision that surprised some coaches.

AFCA executive director Grant Teaff said the change is part of the process of "making our poll the best poll it can possibly be."

The adjustments - the confidential ballot was the most significant - came after a three-month independent study by Gallup. The polling group recommended confidentiality because it leads to better accuracy, according to Teaff, who said, "Why do you have booths for people to vote in?" Until four years ago, the AFCA did not release any ballots.

The final ballot of the 2009 regular season still will be made public.

Southeastern Conference coaches at league meetings in Destin, Fla., had varying views:

-- South Carolina's Steve Spurrier: "I sort of think we ought to stay public (on the final vote). It keeps everybody pretty honest. So I don't know, that was surprising."

-- Georgia's Mark Richt: "I think there needs be some accountability." Coaches still can release their own ballots if they choose.

-- Florida's Urban Meyer, who backed the confidentiality: "I think it's fine. I think at some point you have to trust the people who vote."

Spurrier, Richt and Meyer were voters in 2008.

The AFCA decided to wait a season before making this change to coincide with the end of the current Bowl Championship Series cycle and to allow further review before the next four-year cycle. The USA TODAY Coaches' Poll is one of three components of the formula that sets the teams for the BCS title game.

BCS coordinator John Swofford was not made available for questions Wednesday. He released a statement: "In the past, the commissioners have favored transparency in voting. ... The commissioners review all aspects of the BCS arrangement - including the BCS standings - at the conclusion of each season, and I know the AFCA's decision will be on the agenda for that review after the January 2010 (BCS) games."

Gallup's recommendations were discussed with BCS officials and USA TODAY, which administers the poll.

USA TODAY managing editor for sports Monte Lorell said he understands why the AFCA would prefer confidential ballots, "because you're not subject to the pressures a coach would be under dealing with fans and boosters and other coaches."

"Our job is to monitor the ballots, maintain the integrity of the poll, and we're obviously going to continue to do that," Lorell said.

He also said he's pleased two items being considered - eliminating the preseason poll and having an anonymous voting panel - were not adopted.

Gallup recommended the voting panel be anonymous, Teaff said. "Confidentiality and anonymous voters get the purest vote. That's the whole concept behind it," he said.

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