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June 1, 2009

Monday with Mike: Secret ballot no way to go

Last week was a busy one for college football. Let's recap some of the most important topics:

Starting in 2010, the final regular-season ballots in the coaches' poll won't be made public; the ballots were secret until 2005. It just makes you shake your head. The BCS is under fire, so of course the coaches decide they're going to add more secrecy to the mix.

Yeah, that's real smart unless the American Football Coaches Association secretly wants this to remain a hot topic and add more fuel to the "We need a playoff now!" fire. And maybe coaches are thinking, "I can be really biased for my league now and there will be no blowback." Of course, I admit that's the cynical view.

The AFCA hired the Gallup Organization you know, the Gallup Poll people to look into their poll. "Gallup said, 'Look, why do you think they have curtains and booths for voting?' They said it's because you get the truest vote from an anonymous vote," AFCA executive director Grant Teaff said in announcing the switch. But here's the cynic in me again: There's no question that's true when you're talking about elected officials. This isn't that; this, instead, is a discussion about who will potentially play in the national title game, and given the angst surrounding those discussions now, you'd think the coaches would be savvy enough to realize this is a PR nightmare.

In addition, if a coach doesn't want his ballot made public, don't sign up as a voter. Worth remembering: Last season, the coaches had Utah seventh in the final regular-season poll and fourth in the final poll. Would a "secret ballot" have changed those results?

It didn't get as much notice as commissioner Mike Slive telling the league's football coaches to cool it on their public comments, but the SEC has capped the number of recruits (at 28) a league school can sign each year. This will have far more impact than Slive's plea.

Ole Miss signed 37 players in February, obviously knowing a lot of them wouldn't qualify. Most SEC schools are going to sign 28, but they now will have to be more choosy in the 28 they sign. The NCAA allows 25 players to enroll in a recruiting class, but more and more schools are oversigning, especially in the Southeast. SEC coaches can send their thank-you notes about the new rule to Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.

"I was very concerned last year when we had one institution sign a lot of players, and that was the catalyst for these discussions," Slive said at last week's league meetings.

Do you remember Brian Butler? He was a mentor/advisor to Bryce Brown, the nation's No. 1 recruit, but Butler had sort of faded into the background since Brown signed with Tennessee in March.

Lo and behold, Butler was in the news again last week when he served as an unofficial spokesman for two Kansas natives who are transferring. Chris Harper is leaving Oregon and Brodrick Smith is leaving Minnesota, and the Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal quoted Butler as saying, "I've talked to both of them. Basically, they're trying to get closer to home. K-State is an option for both of them, a very serious option."

Welcome back onto the scene, Brian.

Grid bits
The Pac-10 is one of two "Big Six" conferences the Big East is the other to play a round-robin schedule. But league athletic directors will discuss possibly dropping one conference game during their June meetings in San Francisco. A movement appears to be afoot to drop one of the nine conference games and add another non-conference contest. (The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC have eight-game conference schedules.) Raise your hand if you think that extra non-conference game will be used to schedule a marquee non-conference foe. Come on, there has to be somebody.

The next time someone mentions the poor officiating in a college football game and if you're watching a Pac-10 game that surely is going to happen I want you to laugh, then say, "Well, at least it's not as bad as the officiating in the 2009 NBA playoffs."

Two of the higher-profile graduate assistants in recent memory will be in the SEC this season. Mitch Browning, who has been an offensive coordinator at Minnesota and Syracuse, will be a GA at Tennessee. Mike Groh, a former offensive coordinator for his dad, Al, at Virginia, will be a GA at Alabama.

Former Arizona State defensive lineman Jeremy Staat recently received his ASU diploma after returning from a tour of duty as a Marine in Iraq. Staat, who also played some in the NFL and in the Arena League, joined the Marines after former college teammate Pat Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan.

Marshall coach Mark Snyder hasn't had a winning record in any of his four seasons with the Herd and he's squarely on the hot seat entering the season. But it hasn't been the best of offseasons for Marshall. Two of the Herd's best players tailback Darius Marshall and cornerback DeQuan Bembry recently were placed on probation for misdemeanor drug charges; it was Bembry's second arrest since the end of last season. In addition, wide receiver Courtney Edmonson a potential starter was cited for underage drinking and backup linebacker Corey Hart was arrested after an on-campus incident during the spring. Then, last week, one of the Herd's prized recruits was arrested, and Snyder quickly rescinded the school's scholarship offer. The recruit was Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby quarterback A.J. Graham, who was Florida's "Mr. Football" for 2008. Graham was arrested on charges of robbery with a firearm.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be heard on Rivals Radio every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET and can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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