More surprising than Monday’s news that USC Coach Lane Kiffin was pulling out as a voter in the USA Today coaches’ poll was the fact he agreed to do it in the first place.
What was Kiffin thinking?
It was like Newt Gingrich becoming a pollster for the Democrats.
USC and the coaches’ poll have a history -- and it isn’t pretty.
Former USC Coach Pete Carroll never voted -- and maybe now you know why.
The coaches, you may hideously recall, named LSU its top team in 2003 even though USC was its clear-cut No. 1 entering a Rose Bowl game it won.
The 2004 BCS trophy, awarded by the American Football Coaches Assn., was later taken from USC in the wake of NCAA sanctions.
The Associated Press, conversely, named USC national champions in 2003 and allowed the Trojans to keep their title of 2004.
Kiffin would have had much more fun as an AP voter.
He withdrew from the USA Today poll Monday after casting his one and only preseason ballot -- with USC at No. 1.
The problem was Kiffin recently suggested to reporters he would not vote USC for the top spot. That sparked a response from USA Today, which administers the poll. All votes are anonymous until the final ballot, unless a coach misrepresents his vote in public.
USA Today thought it had to set the record straight with Kiffin. Conspiracy theorists might suggest the poll has it out for USC and Kiffin, a sometimes controversial member of the fraternity.
USA Today, though, acted similarly after former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel once suggested he voted Texas No. 1 when he actually had his own team on top.
The overall point here, though, is that the coaches’ poll will never be trusted so long as it sanctions secrecy.
Anonymity allows for too many suspicions and ridiculous predicaments.
In 2003, more than two dozen coaches were contractually forced to switch their No. 1 votes from USC to the winner of the BCS title game.
We still don’t know who those coaches are.
USC finished No. 1 in the coaches’ poll but third in the BCS standings.
Louisiana State won the BCS crown that year but the AP kept USC at No. 1.
Three voting coaches, to their credit, actually broke ranks with the AFCA and kept USC at No. 1.
The whole notion of current coaches helping to select the national title participants is fundamentally flawed. The fact coaches are allowed to vote in secret was one of the really good reasons to replace the BCS system.
Maybe Kiffin thought he had to become a voter to protect USC in a season when the Trojans were going to be considered serious title contenders.
USC will now have to go it alone into the murkiness of this methodology.
And remember this: The USA Today poll didn’t just lose a voter Monday.
USC also lost a No. 1 vote.