- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Do not mess with the USA Today Coaches Poll because it is not afraid to narc on you.
USC coach Lane Kiffin stepped in it Tuesday when he told reporters he wouldn't vote the Trojans No. 1. That wasn't a smart thing to say, most particularly because he did vote USC No. 1 with his first-ever vote in the coaches' poll.
He fibbed for the sake of a talking point. That's not terribly smart, even if he counted on the coaches poll upholding its policy to protect the privacy of its voters until the final poll.
This is an example of a coach over-thinking how he wants to present himself in the media. When asked about his vote in the poll, Kiffin had only two options: 1. Tell the truth; 2. Say his vote is confidential. But Kiffin wanted it both ways. He wanted to vote his team No. 1 and then "aw shucks" it about his team not being No. 1.
As for his vote, Kiffin knows that preseason perception matters. The coaches' poll matters, no matter how ridiculous and laden with conflicts of interest it is. USC's starting off at No. 3 in the coaches' poll is not as good for the Trojans as starting off as Nos. 1 or 2. Why? We are still using the BCS system, and USC folks know as well as any program how easily that system can screw over a program.
So Kiffin wanted to vote USC No. 1. But he also wanted to downplay his team, emphasizing its lack of numbers. Perhaps he also viewed his "We're not No. 1" comments as motivation for his locker room. Whatever his motivation, he told reporters something that wasn't true, which often will come back and bite a public figure on his rear end.
But, as bad as Kiffin looks, this again brings to light how silly the coaches' poll is. While many will enjoy this "gotcha" moment on Kiffin -- just as they did in 2006 when then Ohio State coach Jim Tressel did about the same thing -- the lack of transparency with the poll is indefensible.
With so much money at stake, and the coaches having a vested interest in how the poll stacks up, it's ludicrous that the public isn't made aware of how each coach votes every week. This whiny-baby thing of other coaches getting mad at them should churn your stomach.
Hey, guys? Man-up.
So we now know who Kiffin voted No. 1. Hooray.
What we need to know is how every coach stacked his top 25 and whether he did it in a reasonable, defensible way or if he only served his own interests.
21hChantel Jennings and David Lombardi