The USA Today Coaches' Poll is the current name for a weekly ranking of the top 25 NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football, Division I college basketball, and Division I college baseball teams.
The football rankings are compiled by the USA Today Board of Coaches which is made up of 59 head coaches at Division I FBS institutions. All coaches are members of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). The basketball rankings are compiled by the USA Today Board of Coaches which is made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions. All are members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The baseball rankings are compiled by the USA Today Board of Coaches which is made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions. All are members of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).
The football Coaches' Poll is an element of the BCS rankings, a voting system used to determine who will play in the BCS National Championship Game and be crowned the NCAA Division I FBS national champion.
The Coaches' Poll began selecting the top 20 teams on a weekly basis during the 1950-1951 college football and basketball seasons. It was initially published by United Press from 1950 thru 1990, followed by USA Today/CNN from 1991 thru 1996, and USA Today/ESPN from 1997 to 2004, and USA Today from 2005 to present. For the 1990-1991 football and basketball seasons, the poll expanded to a top 25, and it has retained this format since.
Through the 1973 college football season, the final Coaches' Poll was released in early December, after the regular season, but before the bowl games. Beginning with the 1974 season, the Coaches' Poll would conduct its final poll after the bowl games. In 1991, USA Today and CNN took over publishing the coaches' football poll. In 1997, ESPN took the place of CNN as co-sponsor. Finally, following the 2005 season, as a result of controversial voting practices related to the BCS, ESPN dropped its co-sponsorship of the football poll, leaving USA Today as the sole sponsor.
Although the coaches' football poll is often generally in accord with the AP Poll there have been years where the polls disagree. Eleven times the Coaches Poll has crowned a different national champion than the AP Poll – in 1954, 1957, 1965, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1991, 1997, and 2003 – causing consternation among some college football fans. Until 1974 the final Coaches Poll was taken before the bowl games occurred (the final AP poll was taken after the bowls starting in 1968). This was changed after the 1973 season, when Alabama was crowned as the Coaches Poll national champion in December, yet lost the Sugar Bowl to Notre Dame on New Year's Eve. The same situation occurred in 1970, when #5 Notre Dame beat #1 Texas 24-11 in the 1971 Cotton Bowl and Nebraska won the AP national title. The
Also, since 1974, teams on probation are not recognized in the poll of coaches while the AP permits their inclusion.
The winner of the BCS National Championship Game is required to be voted number one, yet the AP Poll does not have this requirement. The winner of the Coaches' Poll is awarded the Waterford Crystal AFCA National Championship Trophy in an on-field post-game presentation.
The coaches poll has come under criticism for being inaccurate, with some of the charges being that coaches are biased towards their own teams and conferences, that coaches don't actually complete their own ballots, and that coaches are unfamiliar with even the basics, such as whether a team is undefeated or not, about teams they are voting on. In 2012, USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin resigned as a voter after just one vote amidst controversy over his preseason selection of USC as No. 1. Kiffin told reporters, "I would not vote USC No. 1, I can tell you that much." However, USA Today, citing the need to "protect the poll's integrity", revealed that Kiffin had voted his team for the top spot. Kiffin apologized and explained that his comments were from the perspective of an opposing coach voting for USC.
Year-by-year final Coaches' poll football champions
Beginning in 1993, USA Today and CNN took over publishing the coaches' basketball poll for UPI. Beginning in the 1993-1994 basketball season, the Coaches' Poll began publishing its final poll after the NCAA basketball tournament. From 1995 to 2001, the poll was co-sponsored by USA Today and the NABC. Finally, in 2002, ESPN joined as a co-sponsor of the Coaches' Poll along with USA Today and the National Association of Basketball Coaches where select NABC members serve as the voting block for the poll. ESPN retains its involvement with the basketball poll despite no longer being involved with the football poll.
- AP Poll
- Bowl Championship Series
- Grantland Rice Award
- Mythical National Championship
- NCAA Division I-A national football championship
- Dickinson System
- Harris Interactive College Football Poll
- NAIA Coaches' Poll
- "USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-07-27.
- "USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25 Poll". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-07-27.
- Carey, Jack (2005-06-07). "ESPN Severs Ties to Poll". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-07-27.
- Epps, Darren (9 December 2008). "As always, coaches' poll shows biases". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- Volin, Ben (9 December 2008). "Coaches Make a Mockery of Their Poll". Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
- Moura, Pedro (August 13, 2012). "Lane Kiffin relinquishes voting duty". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on August 16, 2012.
- "USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25 coaches' baseball poll". USA Today. 2011-03-28.