Five voters withdraw from Harris college football poll

Updated: August 25, 2005, 6:13 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The new college football poll being used by the Bowl Championship Series will have to replace five voters on its recently unveiled panel, four who work for ESPN and one whose only connection to college football is his father-in-law.

Lou Holtz, Gerry DiNardo, John Congemi and Sam Smith are not permitted by ESPN to vote in the Harris Interactive College Football Poll because it is being used by the BCS to determine which teams play for the national championship.

Jason Rash, the son-in-law of Troy coach Larry Blakeney, has withdrawn from the 114-member Harris voter panel after the BCS informed the Sun Belt Conference that he did not meet its voter criteria.

Congemi, the former Pittsburgh quarterback, is a game analyst for ESPN's regional college football coverage. Holtz, who retired as South Carolina coach last year, recently signed on as a studio analyst. DiNardo, fired as Indiana coach after last season, will work for ESPN Radio.

Smith, who does play-by-play for ESPN's regional coverage of Sun Belt Conference games, was asked by the network on Thursday to give up his spot on the Harris poll and agreed, according to ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz.

"When the Harris poll was announced, we went on record saying our commentators wouldn't participate for journalistic reasons," Krulewitz said. "That decision is consistent given our decision to pull out of the coaches' poll."

ESPN said it removed its name from the USA Today coaches' poll earlier this year because all ballots are not being made public. The coaches agreed this season to release only their final ballots for the first time.

The Harris poll is being used by the BCS to replace The Associated Press media poll after the AP asked college football officials to stop using the Top 25 in their formula for picking teams to play in the four major bowls.

Nancy Wong, a spokeswoman for Harris Interactive Inc., said Congemi has confirmed his withdrawal, but Holtz, DiNardo and Smith had not yet informed Harris by Thursday afternoon that they will not be participating.

The 11 Division I-A conferences and Notre Dame provided Harris with a pool of about 300 possible poll voters. The panel was randomly selected with the only consideration being equal representation for all conferences.

Wong said Harris will randomly select replacements for Harris and Rash out of the remaining pool of voters, and is prepared to do the same for Holtz and DiNardo when their withdrawals are confirmed.

There were no women among the 114 original voters. Wong said there are female candidates in the voter pool, so the possibility exists that a woman could be selected as a replacement. But no special accommodation will be made to put a woman on the panel, she said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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