The Associated Press (AP Poll) provides weekly rankings of the top 25 NCAA teams in one of three Division I college sports: football, men's basketball and women's basketball. The rankings are compiled by polling 65 sportswriters and broadcasters from across the nation. Each voter provides his own ranking of the top 25 teams, and the individual rankings are then combined to produce the national ranking by giving a team 25 points for a first place vote, 24 for a second place vote, and so on down to 1 point for a twenty-fifth place vote. Ballots of the voting members in the AP Poll are made public.
The AP college football poll has a long history. The news media began running their own polls of sports writers to determine who was, by popular opinion, the best football team in the country at the end of the season. One of the earliest such polls was the AP College Football Poll, first run in 1934 (compiled and organized by Charles Woodroof, former SEC Assistant Director of Media Relations) and it has run continuously from 1936.
Due to the long-standing historical ties between individual college football conferences and high-paying bowl games like the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl, the NCAA had not held a tournament or championship game to determine the champion of what is now the highest division, NCAA Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision (the Division I, Football Championship Subdivision and lower divisions do hold championship tournaments). As a result, the public and the media began to acknowledge the leading vote-getter in the final AP Poll as the national champion for that season.
While the AP Poll currently lists the Top 25 teams in the nation, from 1936 to 1961 the wire service only ranked 20 teams. From 1962 to 1967 only 10 teams were recognized. From 1968 to 1988, the AP again resumed its Top 20 before expanding to the current 25 teams in 1989.
At the end of the 1947 season the AP released an unofficial post-bowl poll which differed from the regular season final poll. Until the 1968 college football season, the final AP poll of the season was released following the end of the regular season, with the lone exception of the 1965 season. In 1964, Alabama was named the national champion in the final AP Poll following the completion of the regular season, but lost in the Orange Bowl to Texas, leaving Arkansas as the only undefeated, untied team after the Razorbacks defeated Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl Classic. In 1965, the AP's decision to wait to crown its champion paid handsomely, as top-ranked Michigan State lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, number two Arkansas lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl Classic, and fourth-ranked Alabama defeated third-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, vaulting the Crimson Tide to the top of the AP's final poll (Michigan State was named national champion in the final UPI Coaches Poll, which did not conduct a post-bowl poll).
Beginning in the 1968 season, the post bowl game poll became permanent and the AP championship reflected the bowl game results. The UPI did not follow suit with the coaches' poll until the 1974 season.
No. 1 vs. No. 2
As of the completion of the 2015 season the number one ranked team has faced the number two ranked team 50 times since the inception of the AP Poll in 1936. The number one team has a record of 28–20–2 against the number two team.
AP Poll inclusion in the BCS
In 1997, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was developed to try to unify the poll results by picking two teams for a "real" national championship game. For the first several years the AP Poll factored in the determination of the BCS rankings, along with other factors including the Coaches Poll and computer-based polls. Because of a series of controversies surrounding the BCS, the AP demanded in December, 2004, that its poll no longer be used in the BCS rankings, and so the 2004–2005 season was the last season that the AP Poll was used for this purpose.
In the 2003 season the BCS system broke down when the final BCS standings ranked the University of Southern California (USC) at No. 3 while the two human polls in the system had ranked USC at No. 1. As a result, USC did not play in the BCS' designated national championship game. After defeating another highly ranked team, Michigan, in its final game, the AP Poll kept USC at No. 1 while the Coaches Poll was contractually obligated to select the winner of the BCS game, Louisiana State University (LSU), as the No. 1 team. The resulting split national title was the very problem that the BCS was created to solve, and has been widely considered an embarrassment.
In 2004, a new controversy erupted at the end of the season when Auburn and Utah, who both finished the regular season 12–0, were left out of the BCS title game in favor of Oklahoma who also was 12–0 and had won decisively over Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game. USC went on to a win easily over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl while Auburn and Utah both won their bowl games, leaving three undefeated teams at the end of the season. Also, in that same year, Texas made up late ground on California (Cal) in the BCS standings and as a result grabbed a high-payout, at-large spot in the Rose Bowl. Previous to that poll, Cal had been ranked ahead of Texas in both human polls and the BCS poll. Going into their final game, the Golden Bears were made aware that while margin of victory did not affect computer rankings, it did affect human polls and just eight voters changing their vote could affect the final standings. Both teams won their game that week, but the Texas coach, Mack Brown, had made a public effort to lobby for his team to be moved higher in the ranking. When the human polls were released, Texas remained behind Cal, but it had closed the gap enough so that the BCS poll (which determines placement) placed Texas above Cal, angering both Cal and its conference, the Pac-10. The final poll positions had been unchanged with Cal at No. 4 AP, No. 4 coaches, and No. 6 computers polls and Texas at No. 6 AP, No. 5 coaches, and No. 4 computer polls. The AP Poll voters were caught in the middle because their vote changes were automatically made public, while the votes of the Coaches poll were kept confidential. Although there had been a more substantial shift in the votes of the Coaches Poll, the only clear targets for the ire of fanatical fans were the voters in the AP Poll. While officials from both Cal and the Pac-10 called for the coaches' votes to be made public, the overtures were turned down and did little to solve the problem of AP voters. Cal went on to lose to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. Texas defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Many members of the press who voted in the AP Poll were upset by the controversy and, at the behest of its members, the AP asked that its poll no longer be used in the BCS rankings. The 2004 season was the last season that the AP Poll was used in the BCS rankings, it was replaced in the BCS equation by the newly created Harris Interactive College Football Poll.
Final AP football polls
Other media football polls
The AP Poll is not the only college football poll. The other major poll is the Coaches Poll, which has been sponsored by several organizations: the United Press (1950–1957), the United Press International (1958–1990), USA Today (1991–present), CNN (1991–1996), and ESPN (1997–2005). Having two major polls has led to numerous "split" national titles, where the two polls disagreed on the No. 1 team. This has occurred on eleven different occasions (1954, 1957, 1965, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1991, 1997, 2003).
In Division I men's and women's college basketball, the AP Poll is largely just a tool to compare schools throughout the season and spark debate, as it has no bearing on postseason play. Generally, all top 25 teams in the poll are invited to the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournament, also known as March Madness. The poll is usually released every Monday and voters' ballots are made public.
The AP began compiling a ranking of the top 20 college men's basketball teams during the 1948–1949 season. It has issued this poll continuously since the 1950–1951 season. UNC has been ranked #1 the most times (9) and UCLA has been ranked #1 the second most times (8).
The women's basketball poll began during the 1976–1977 season, and was initially compiled by Mel Greenberg and published by The Philadelphia Inquirer. At first, it was a poll of coaches conducted via telephone, where coaches identified top teams and a list of the Top 20 team was produced. The initial list of coaches did not include Pat Summitt, who asked to join the group, not to improve her rankings, but because of the lack of media coverage, Summitt believed it would be a good way to stay on top of who the top teams were outside of her own schedule. The contributors continued to be coaches until 1994, when the AP took over administration of the poll from Greenberg, and switched to a panel of writers. In 1994, Tennessee started out as No. 1 in the polls with Connecticut at No. 4. After losses by the No. 2 and No. 3 teams, Tennessee and Connecticut were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, headed into a showdown, scheduled as a special event on Martin Luther King day, the only women's basketball game scheduled on that day. Because of the unusual circumstances, the decision was made to hold off the AP voting for one day, to ensure it would be after the game. Connecticut won the game, and moved into first place in the AP poll, published on Tuesday for the only time. (Connecticut went on to complete an undefeated season). Over the history of the poll, over 255 coaches have had a team represented in polls.
- 2014 NCAA Division I FBS football rankings
- Bowl Championship Series
- Coaches' Poll
- College football national championships in NCAA Division I FBS
- Dickinson System
- Game of the Century (college football)
- Grantland Rice Award
- Harris Interactive College Football Poll
- List of college football teams by weekly appearances atop AP Poll
- Mythical national championship
- NAIA Coach's Poll
- Associated Press voters 2013 retrieved 2 January 2014
- "AP College Poll Voters [Football]". Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 25, 2009.
- "November 15, 1934 AP Football Poll". College Poll Archive – Historical College Football and Basketball Polls and Rankings. 1934-11-15. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
- "1936 Final Football Polls". College Poll Archive – Historical College Football and Basketball Polls and Rankings. Archived from the original on October 13, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
- Ellis, Zac (2013-08-17). "AP Poll: Alabama, Ohio State headline first preseason rankings". Campus Union - SI.com. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
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- The official final AP poll, taken before the bowls, had Notre Dame No. 1 (107 first place votes) and Michigan No. 2 (25 first place votes). Michigan won the Rose Bowl 49–0 over USC while Notre Dame did not play in a bowl game. Detroit Free Press sports editor Lyall Smith arranged a post-bowl AP poll with only Michigan or Notre Dame as choices. Michigan won that poll 266–119.Kyrk, John. Natural Enemies. pp. 142–7. ISBN 1-58979-090-1.
- AP No. 1 vs. No. 2 games. Associated Press, August 13, 2008
- AP Removes Its Poll From BCS, ncaasports.com, Dec. 22, 2004, Accessed June 6, 2006.
- Tim Layden, Embarrassing moments in College Football (#10), SportsIllustrated.com, Aug. 2, 2006 , Accessed Aug. 2, 2006.
- Kelly Whiteside = California bears burden of making point that it's BCS-worthy. USA TODAY, November 29, 2004
- *"2004 BCS Standings, BCS Rankings" (PDF). The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Inc. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
- BCS Replaces AP Poll, ncaasports.com, July 12, 2005, Accessed June 6, 2006.
- "AP College Poll Voters [Men's Basketball]". Associated Press.
- Greenberg, Mel. ""The stare" may have been Summitt's trademark, but it did not define her true personality". FullCourt.com. Retrieved 8 Nov 2012.
- "Mel Greenberg Class of 2004/2005 – Sports Writer". Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 8 Nov 2012.
- Mel Greenberg, Mel. "Guru's College Special: How A Previous NHL Lockout Enhanced WBB To UConn's Benefit". Womhoops Guru. Retrieved 8 Nov 2012.
- Greenberg, Mel. "Guru's College Report: Associated Press Preseason Poll Trivia". Womhoops Guru. Retrieved 8 Nov 2012.
- Wilner, Barry (31 July 2012). "Packers top first-ever AP Pro32 rankings". The Washington Times. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- The Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll at The Associated Press
- The Associated Press Top 25 Men's College Basketball Poll at The Associated Press
- Archive of all AP weekly polls for football and men's/women's basketball
- List of all Final AP football Poll results and champions
- Archive of all weekly AP ballots since 2007
- AP Football Poll voters
- AP Men's Basketball Poll voters
- AP Women's Basketball Poll voters