Blogs and Commentary

posted 04.20.2011 at 9.06 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Morning Jac: Time for MCLA to Tighten Poll

Having the Prodigy Poll as part of the criteria for selection to the MCLA tournament in both of its divisions is a terrible policy. Giving 25 coaches, which represent roughly 12 percent of the teams in each division, the ability to directly influence the selection and seeding of the association's signature event is fundamentally unfair. And with 88 percent of the coaches sitting on the sidelines with their finger's crossed, it's also a recipe for bad blood.

I understand why the MCLA has stuck with this format. It was just three years ago that the final weekly poll not only determined the seeding, but also who received the at-large bids to the tournament. It was relatively easy to do because there were a finite amount of teams who had the necessities to qualify for the tournament. Due to the growing numbers of competitive teams, along with the fractuous regional nature of the MCLA, a committee was necessitated to do a task.

With this selection committee in place, the association has matured to the point where it no longer needs a weekly coaches poll to influence who will be chosen for Denver. The MCLA is the only college league other than the BCS that uses a coaches poll to directly choose participants in a postseason event. But if the powers that be insist on keeping this vestige of the MCLA's infancy, there are changes that need to be made.

It starts with narrowing the scope of the ranking to 20 teams instead of the current 25. For most programs in the NCAA, weekly rankings are nothing more than a publicity tool. If this was the purpose in the MCLA, I could see them wanting to give 25 teams the chance to use it for recruiting/publicity benefit. Considering that there are numerous MCLA teams that can't input their score into a database 24 hours after a game, publicity is not really a factor at this point.

With 20 teams, there can be balance among the pollsters. With 10 leagues and 25 pollsters, the numbers dictate that there will be an imbalance, and it's even more pronounced that it should be. For example, the RMLC, which has six total teams, has four coaches on the current poll. The UMLL, which also has six teams, only has one representative. If the poll is whittled down to 20 teams, there can be an equal number of representatives from each conference. While not every coach wants to be part of a poll, two reps from each league is certainly doable.

The coaches who are currently on the poll undoubtedly try their best to rank the teams in the proper order. I don't believe any of the coaches on the poll would consciously skew their ranking for their benefit or that of their conference, but it is only natural that an individual will overvalue what it sees most. That's why the balance is so critical.

It's also about appearances. Sometimes perceptions can be more dangerous than realities, so if the MCLA feels it must have a poll as part of the selection process, they need to do start doing it right.