The controversial Bowl Championship Series system claimed another victim yesterday.
This time, it was not a 10-1 University of California football team that was relegated to play in the Holiday Bowl rather than the Rose Bowl. This time, it was a body of voters whose decisions make up a third of the overall vote that goes into the BCS rankings.
Following the lead of one of its member newspapers, the Associated Press has informed those running the BCS that AP voters would no longer be part of determining the BCS national champion, beginning with the 2005 season.
The AP poll has been used to help crown national champions in college football since 1936.
The BCS has been used since 1998 to pick the teams for the four major bowl games - the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta - with the help of the AP poll of writers and broadcasters, the ESPN/USA Today poll of coaches and four independent computer polls.
"We respect the decision of the Associated Press to no longer have its poll included in the BCS standing," BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said in a statement.
"We will discuss alternatives to the Associated Press poll at upcoming BCS meetings and plan to conclude our evaluation of the BCS Standings Formula, including any other possible changes, by our April meeting."
The move by the AP followed a decision on Dec. 10 by the Charlotte Observer to get out of voting in the poll as long as it was used to decide the national championship in college football.
"The credibility of this newspaper is more important than the prestige of voting in the AP poll," Observer sports editor Mike Persinger wrote in a column to readers that appeared the next day.
The decision by the AP comes more than two weeks after this year's BCS bowl lineup was announced to much criticism.
While the BCS achieved its stated goal of putting together the top two ranked teams in a national championship game -in this case the matchup of No. 1 Southern California and No. 2 Oklahoma in the FedEx Orange Bowl at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Jan. 4 - two other BCS games came under fire.
The Rose Bowl picked Texas over California after the Bears slipped from fourth to sixth in the computer polls after an unimpressive win in their last regular-season game, at Southern Mississippi.
Longhorns coach Mack Brown, whose team also finished 10-1, had lobbied vigorously after Texas finished the regular season with a less-than- inspiring win against Texas A&M; at home and found a sympathetic audience in voters from three of the state's largest newspapers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, voters from the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Austin American-Statesman all flipped their votes in favor of the Longhorns. As a result, the Longhorns were invited to their first BCS game and will reap the financial benefits that could amount to as much as $10 million.
Another controversy erupted when a writer for an Alabama newspaper voted Auburn behind both USC and Oklahoma in his AP vote. Not only was Paul Gattis, who covers the University of Alabama football team for the Huntsville Times, accused by fans of favoring the Crimson Tide over the Tigers, he was also taken to task by his own editor.
Gattis was encouraged to explain his decision in a column, which was later called "mean-spirited" and "callow" by the paper's editor, Melinda Gorham.
Critics of the BCS have long called for the implementation of a playoff system similar to the one used on every level of college football below Division I-A. One critic, a member of the California Senate, has introduced a resolution that calls for the BCS to be dissolved.
Sen. Dick Ackerman, the California Senate's Republican leader, is admittedly biased in one regard: He is a 1964 Cal graduate. But Ackerman has plenty of supporters who agree with his assessment of the BCS.
"The BCS has proven in its seven-year existence that it is a failure," said Ackerman. "It has failed at the expense of California and other Pac-10 teams that have lost millions of dollars in revenue."
Ackerman said that Cal's exile to the Holiday Bowl was the result of lobbying by Texas officials.
"Politicking and campaigning have no place in college athletics," he said.
The Associated Press and other news organizations contributed to this article.
AP on the BCS
The Associated Press statement on the Bowl Championship Series:
The Associated Press has not at any time given permission to the Bowl Championship Series to use its proprietary ranking of college football teams. This unauthorized use of the AP poll has harmed AP's reputation and interfered with AP's agree-ments with AP poll voters. To preserve its reputation for honesty and integrity, the AP is asking the BCS to discontinue its unauthorized use of the AP poll as a component of BCS rankings.