This week's edition of "Meeting Of The Minds" tackles what happens when college football coaches transition from recruiting high school kids to recruiting voters.
Allen Kenney: As the season draws to a close, we've reached the time of year when coaches are getting their best campaign speeches ready. In a year like this in which the BCS picture is still pretty murky, the politicking for poll position really kicks into high gear. In 2007, LSU leaned on the slogan of "undefeated in regulation" to make its case for a shot at the title, and it worked. In 2008, Texas coach Mack Brown took to the airwaves to lobby for his team over Oklahoma – that one didn't work, even though the Longhorns did snag some votes in the human polls.
It's not just limited to the national championship game, either. Brown also stumped for Texas in 2004, helping his team secure enough votes to pass California for a BCS at-large bid.
My question: Is it dirty pool for a coach to campaign for votes? Or, a better question: Should coaches do it? Do you really think that it helps their cause? Is it just plain annoying? Is there ever a chance of a backlash? Do you lose respect for coaches up there stumping?
Regie Eller: Self-preservation, baby. In today's world of collegiate athletics, with the "what have you done for me lately?" mantra, I do not think a coach should be faulted for doing whatever he can do to improve his team's standing nationwide.
Is it annoying? It could be, but I err on the side of the coach for, again, doing his very best for his team, which is what his job is.
If politicians can stump and lie in every city in America about promises that they know they are going to break, why can't a college football coach do the same to improve not only his team's placement, but the money that they will receive to continue building?
Michael Felder: Allen, great question, and I'll be honest, I'm totally for this in the same way I am for Heisman campaigning. It is good publicity, it creates conversation and, to be honest, it is part of what being a good coach is about – putting your team in a position to be as successful as possible.
I look at it in this light: If you don't think your team deserves to play in the best game possible than why should anyone else?
Allen Kenney: Let's flip Mike's idea about a coach arguing his team deserves to play in the best game possible.
If your team is so deserving of playing in this game, shouldn't your case be obvious? It sounds more to me like you're trying to get a piece of something you don't have a legit claim to.
This reminds me of an old saying: "The guilty dog barks loudest."
OK, well, whatever. Anyway, my point is that spinning and stumping always comes off to me like excuse-making and crying. It seems like a refuge for the weak. If you can't rest your case on the merits, you don't have a case at all.
Regie Eller: Myself, I would rather no coach politic and stump and let the play on the field do the talking. But it is what it is, and I won't fault a coach for making a statement for his team.
If he doesn't, someone else will. Whether or not it works, you cannot sit idly by and take the chance of someone making a better case than your on the field play to sometimes lazy voters, or bowl observers.
Michael Felder: Here's the thing: "Deserves" never really comes to my mind. Just simply "putting them in a position to achieve the most success" is the idea I support. I don't think anyone was complaining about Mike Leach stumping for Graham Harrell a few seasons ago. I don't think anyone had an issue with Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden press package that was sent out a few days ago, either.
Campaigning for one guy or campaigning for 110 guys is all the same to me. You're a coach. That's your team. Put them out in front. If you get something you don't deserve, awesome – more for you guys. If you don't get it, at least your kids know you fought for them. Pushing to get your kids the best experience and success – BCS Bowl or just leveling up on the non-BCS Bowl scene – is not a bad thing.
We've seen coaches boost up their conferences and their players. This is another move in that same vein.
Aaron Torres: Mike's already made my point for me better than I already could, so I'll be succinct here.
It's the job of a coach to stand up for his team, through thick and thin, good and bad, whatever. When we see a guy like Will Muschamp chewing out a ref after a bad call, what do we always say? (Well, besides "that dude is nuts!") We say, "Look at him standing up for his guys! Good for him."
This is no different, and no different than we see in other sports. Anything that's subjective, anything that lends itself to opinion will always result in campaigning.
It happens when college basketball coaches start politicking every year for their school on Selection Sunday. It happens when NBA coaches make the case for their player as MVP. Whenever a Hall of Fame vote comes up, we see the same.
I don't see how this is different (and if it is, please tell me), and ultimately I have no problem with it.
Tom Perry: I understand why it happens, but I'm not for it. A coach can still get the message across to his players that he's there for them by talking to them everyday about doing the right things and playing hard and in the end you'll be rewarded.
Now I know this doesn't always work, but I'd prefer to see a coach use any potential slight as motivation and not an opportunity to bash the voters, media, etc.
With that said, it's going to be interesting if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State to see if Bob Stoops, Nick Saban or Chip Kelly is first to make a plea for their team to play LSU. I'd actually like to put all three of them in a room and let them verbally fight it out. That would be ESPN's highest rated show of the season. I'd even go pay-per-view on that one.
Allen Kenney: My money is on Saban. He's small, but he's crafty.
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