Harris Poll Voter

When the 114 selectors to the new Harris Interactive College Football Poll were announced this week, the emphasis among Alabama fans was on those who can be expected to be against Bama. Nationwide, the group was questioned for some unusual selections. But all-in-all, the selectors should provide an interesting poll.

One of the most qualified selectors named was Steve Townsend, the former Alabama sports information director. Although Townsend was listed in the release as the former sports information director at LSU, he was actually a graduate assistant under the famed Paul Manasseh at LSU. Steve then was a co-publisher of Tiger Rag (the LSU equivalent of ‘BAMA Magazine), then went to the Southeastern Conference office.

In the SEC office he served another another sports information legend, Elmore "Scoop" Hudgins, before succeeding Hudgins as media relations director for the SEC in 1982. In 1988 he went to Alabama as media relations director and served for 10 years. He is now an independent consultant for college football.

Townsend said, "I was nominated by people at various conference offices–Mark Womack at the SEC and Bo Carter at the Big 12, and maybe by Glen Tuckett, who is also a voter."

Womack is an Alabama graduate. Carter was formerly assistant SID at Mississippi State. Tuckett was former interim athletics director at Alabama.

Townsend said, "I got a call from Harris during the summer and agreed to do it. I haven't heard anything from them since until I saw my name on the list."

Each week, beginning on September 25, the Harris Poll rankings will be released. The final rankings of the season are the only rankings which will identify individual participant votes.

The Bowl Championship Series formula for the 2005 season will consist of the new Harris Poll, the USA Today Coaches Poll, and an average of six computer rankings (Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe). The first BCS standings will be released on October 17

In addition to Townsend and Tuckett, there are others who could be expected to give Alabama a fair vote. Bill Battle was listed as a former head coach at Tennessee, but the founder of Collegiate Sports Marketing is a former Alabama player. Boots Donnelly, a former coach and athletics director, is the father of former Tide player Chris. Larry Lacewell of Fordyce, Arkansas, Fred Jacoby of the Cotton Bowl, George Lapides of Memphis, and Charlie Cavagnaro, also of Memphis, were all admirers and friends of Alabama Coach Paul Bryant.

There were some selections that would not please Alabama fans, most notably the ridiculous selection of former UAB Basketball Coach Gene Bartow. Ousted Auburn Athletics Director David Housel and former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer are on record for how they feel about Alabama.

In Townsend the Harris Poll got a man who knows college football and who is willing to do the work to be a conscientious voter. It also got a man who is, admittedly, "not a big fan of the BCS. I'm not an advocate of one of these full-blown playoff things, either."

Townsend said, "I think at the end of the bowl season you might have a one-game championship game, and I could see a four-team playoff. I'm not sure 16 teams deserve to be in a playoff. Alabama deserved to go to a bowl game last year and they are special deals for players. The BCS has killed off much of what made the bowls all special."

He said, "When I was growing up, the New Year's Day bowls were special. There was significance to them. Now it's down to one game. A lot of the drama has been eliminated. One of my best memories is 40 years ago when all the bowls fell a certain way to set up the Orange Bowl that night as the national championship game, Alabama defeating Nebraska."

Townsend said he will work to do the best job he can. Part of it will come naturally. He said, "I read a lot of publications and I watch a lot of games, which you couldn't do in olden days when there weren't that many games on television. I'll get to see a lot of teams play, which I think is an advantage. And now the Internet helps you keep up."

He said, "I used to vote on the Heisman and I tried my best to be as fair as I could. I rarely voted for a winner. I remember I voted for (former Alabama linebacker) Derrick Thomas one year, which is one of the few I remember."

As for this year, Townsend said, "Obviously I'd vote Southern Cal number one right now, but there are a lot of teams to consider in the poll."

EDITOR'S NOTE: During the season, Steve Townsend will provide periodic updates on his role as a voter in the Harris Poll, outlining his research and the reasons for his vote. The final vote of all Harris Poll participants will be made public.

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