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Leavitt votes USF No. 18 in coaches poll

Posted Aug 26, 2009 by Brett McMurphy

Updated Aug 26, 2009 at 01:00 PM

University of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt believes his Bulls are the best team in the Big East Conference and the 18th best team in the nation.

At least, that’s how he voted in the preseason USA Today/coaches poll.

The American Football Coaches Association has a policy that keeps the coaches’ ballots private except for the final poll after the bowl games. However, SI.com’s Andy Staples made open records request Tuesday to 51 of the 59 coaches at public universities for their coaches’ poll ballots.

USF was the first to respond to the request, Staples said. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun already makes his ballot public.

The Bulls, who were ranked tied for 40th in the preseason poll, received 11 points – eight points courtesy of Leavitt’s No. 18 ballot.

When the preseason coaches poll was released Aug. 7, Leavitt was asked by The Tampa Tribune about USF’s preseason ranking and how he voted.

“I’ll be real honest – I really am honest – it really doesn’t matter to me,” Leavitt said. “It doesn’t matter to me whether we’re anywhere or if whether we’re ranked (No.) 1. It really doesn’t. The last few years we haven’t been able to finish in the Top 25 and that does mean something to me.

“I’m gonna keep away from that until the last poll. The last poll, you’ll hear about it.”

Leavitt was then asked, without identifying the teams, how many Big East teams were in his Top 25.

“We had a great practice today,” said Leavitt on Aug. 7, laughing. “I’m just not going to do it. I’m just not going to do it. The last (poll), I’m going to tell you exactly how I voted. I’ll tell you the last one.

“I want to stay away from that. No matter what I do, I get beat up on it. No matter how I say it, people are going to say something. The first poll doesn’t do a lot unless you stay undefeated. Gives you a good first shot.

“A few people voted for us.”

Leavitt, who has talked repeatedly in the past few weeks about how young and unproven his team is, had the Bulls as his highest rated Big East team.

He also voted for three other Big East teams: No. 22 Pittsburgh, No. 23 Rutgers and No. 24 Cincinnati.

Leavitt’s No. 1 vote went to Oklahoma, coached by Bob Stoops, who Leavitt was co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State in the mid-1990s. Leavitt was the only coach that voted Oklahoma No. 1.

Other notes about Leavitt’s ballot: Alabama, which was No. 5 in the preseason poll, was only ranked No. 11 by Leavitt. Just two years ago, Leavitt and Alabama coach Nick Saban traded barbs through the media about USF’s academic standards.

Ole Miss, which is ranked No. 10, was not ranked on Leavitt’s ballot and Leavitt’s No. 25 vote went to his alma mater, Missouri.

Staples’ open records request could cause a uproar across the country, especially with the 59 voting coaches. Even though the coaches poll counts for one-third of the formula used to determine which teams qualify for the multi-million dollar BCS bowl games and the BCS title game, a number of coaches do not want their votes made public.

Staples believes the fans should have the right to know how the coaches vote.

“No matter the jurisdiction, laws exist to help us get a look at the information the American Football Coaches Association doesn’t want us to see,” wrote Staples, a former Tampa Tribune reporter. “When it decided to make the post-conference championship game USA Today Coaches Poll ballots secret beginning in the 2010 season, the AFCA ignored one glaring fact: Most of the coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision work for public universities. That means everything those coaches do is subject to the open records law in their particular state. That includes each week’s coaches poll ballot.”

The ballots for the Associated Press writers poll, which is not part of the BCS, are made public each week.

Here is Jim Leavitt’s preseason poll with the actual coaches poll ranking of each team in (parenthesis)

1. Oklahoma (3)
2. Florida (1)
3. Texas (2)
4. USC (4)
5. LSU (9)
6. Ohio State (6)
7. Virginia Tech (7)
8. Penn State (8)
9. Oklahoma State (11)
10. Florida State (19)
11. Alabama (5)
12. North Carolina (20)
13. California (12)
14. Georgia (13)
15. Nebraska (22)
16. TCU (17)
17. Notre Dame (23)
18. USF (not ranked)
19. Miami (not ranked)
20. Georgia Tech (15)
21. Utah (18)
22. Pittsburgh (not ranked)
23. Rutgers (not ranked)
24. Cincinnati (not ranked)
25. Missouri (not ranked)