The lamest excuse in the history of mankind was made earlier this week by an ESPN Top 25 college football pollster helped illustrate the flaws in a system ripe for human error: “I forgot.”
The pollster, Travis Haney, was one of two voters who had 5-1 Penn State ranked above 5-0 Temple, even though the Owls not only handed the Nittany Lions their only loss of the season, but chose to have mercy by running out the clock in 27-10 win deep in PSU territory. The Owls scored the game’s final 27 points and had so much momentum going they could have added another score for 34-10 but chose to take three knees. Haney had Penn State ranked No. 25 and Temple unranked.
Even the PSU fans admitted as much afterward:
That prompted this exchange on twitter:
@TEMPLEALLSPORTS Just a mistake, plain and simple. Initially forgot ND and then didn’t add Temple back in 20s. My apologies. Not intentional
— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) October 12, 2015
Haney deserves as much credit as blame. He could have made up a more palatable excuse, but went with honestly. The other pollster, former Miami coach Butch Davis, was reached out to and did not respond. I would not be surprised if he forgot as well. He had Penn State ranked No. 23 and Temple unranked.
The problem with this example is that it probably happens all of the time and not just with the two men voting in an ESPN poll and it is an inherent flaw in a system that relies on human memory. When the committee gets together to pick the playoff teams, things like polls do have an impact—even if it is a psychological one. In this example, Temple was the most affected team but it could really happen to anyone else in any other poll. In the AP poll, Owls sit right now at No. 26, tops among “others receiving votes” and, based on Haney’s admission, they have to wonder if someone else who “forgot” them cost them a spot in the top 25 this week. The difference between 26th and 25th is enormous, because it means getting on the scoreboard crawl that runs across the bottom of TV screens for every game or getting ignored.
In a multi-million dollar business, or anything else really, the “I forgot” excuse should not fly.