Wednesday night, after being asked about Rich Rod's preseason vote where he placed the Trojans as the top team in the country, Lane Kiffin responded by saying, "I would not vote USC No. 1, I can tell you that."
This is Kiffin's first year voting in the "Coaches" poll. According to a USC spokesman, "USA TODAY sent a June 4, 2012, letter to coaches who agreed to vote in its college football poll stating that, except for the final poll of the regular season, 'votes for all other polls will be kept confidential by USA TODAY.'"
The "coaches" poll is conducted by the AFCA; but administered by USA Today (they collect the votes, tabulate the results and publish the polls).
After hearing Kiffin's quote, USA Today apparently called him to discuss; because he had in fact voted USC #1 in his poll. According to USA Today, when a voter (coach) offers false information about his vote, "then USA TODAY Sports, in its oversight role as administrator of the poll, will set the record straight to protect the poll's integrity." And thus, presumably with the AFCA's knowledge and approval, they outed Kiffin...destroying any trust that any coach has in the concept of keeping votes "confidential".
Kiffin told USA Today last night that he did not see how his quote misinterpreted his vote, noting their thin roster as the reason for the comment, but adding that the talent that they return was the reason for his vote.
"We have less players than everybody else. So looking at it from the outside, I wouldn't (vote USC No. 1). Did I? Yeah, I did. That's not based off of 75 vs. 85. That's based off of (USC players) Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald and Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. When everybody has the same record, I can't go into a meeting with our players and have them say, 'You put that team and that team ahead of us.' That's why I did that."
Kiffin added "I don't really buy things are confidential anymore."
USC's spokesman added, "The fact that the leadership of the American Football Coaches Association, which tasks USA TODAY to administer its poll, joined with the poll administrators from USA TODAY to decide to breach that confidentiality by providing to a reporter a coach's vote in its pre-season poll is disappointing and attacks the integrity of the poll. Further, that the reporter who was given this information represents the very organization that conducts the poll is a conflict of journalistic interest.''
As news of this "outing" broke today, we called five division 1 coaches and asked for their thoughts. Some were head coaches, others were not; but unanimously said that they feel those administering the poll have lost all credibility. Nearly every single coach questioned why the AFCA and USA Today would go public with this information.
We have no answer for that and would welcome input from either party.
For those that want to see Kiffin's original statement about that he would not vote USC #1, it's below.