Georgia against Gardner-Webb on Dec. 29, 2021. Dec 29, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs guard Cam McDowell (2) tries to dribble past Gardner Webb Runnin Bulldogs forward Ludovic Dufeal (24) during the second half at Stegeman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Many media-voted polls and awards use an online drop-down selection process these days rather than physically-mailed or even manually-filled-out-and-emailed ballots, which saves a lot of time and labor on both the voting and tabulating ends. However, this sometimes leads to cases where there’s an odd vote, later explained as the voter mistakenly choosing a similar name in a drop-down menu. That happened with a NL MVP vote in 2020 (Rick Hummel of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said he tried to give a 10th-place vote to Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner, but instead selected Cubs’ reliever Ryan Tepera), and it’s now happened with an AP college basketball poll.

The AP poll issue came here Monday, with Stephen Tsai of The Honolulu Star-Advertiser mistakenly picking the Georgia Bulldogs (5-8, and fresh off a 77-60 loss to the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs on Dec. 29, seen above) instead of  the Gonzaga Bulldogs (11-2) with his fourth-place vote. That led to the initially-released poll undervaluing Gonzaga and making Georgia a surprising “also receiving votes” selection, but the poll was later corrected after that vote was confirmed as a mistake. Jared Berson of ESPN Stats & Info covered the saga as it played out:

A few things stand out here. One, yes, this is a notable mistake, but it is an easy enough error to make, especially in ballots that involve making a lot of selections from drop-down lists. It’s happened before, and not just with that 2020 MLB vote; there was a lot of discussion around this in September 2020 when Maria Taylor didn’t list Anthony Davis on her All-NBA ballot and said that was a “clear mistake,” with many people chiming in to say they’d made similar mistakes. Voting for awards and polls is not what any writer is paid for; it’s an additional thing that many choose to volunteer their time on in order to try and provide fair results. And it’s worth noting that the AP polls in both CBB and CFB tend to be significantly better than the “coaches’ polls,” which often come from sports information directors or operations managers rather than the coaches themselves (and are probably better for it; many head coaches are not going to invest the time needed into coming up with their own national rankings). Voting on things like this, if done well, is a task requiring research and time, and given the sheer numbers of votes for these kinds of polls, it’s not surprising that even unintentional errors occasionally happen.

But the real positive from this situation may be the quick response from the AP to reach out to the voter, confirm that the submitted ballot did not match his intention, and correct the results accordingly. For a poll like this, that’s much better than a “a vote cast is a vote cast” philosophy, specifically for votes that appear to be mistakes rather than actual opinions. As with instant replay in many sports, higher-level oversight works well for reversing egregious mistakes, and providing the flexibility to reverse egregious mistakes is important. This shouldn’t ever lead into pushes to get voters to change their actual opinions because they don’t align with a consensus (either of voters or of fans), but this is the equivalent of a typo. And it’s much smarter to have the ability to correct those kinds of typos when they happen rather than to let them stand, and forever etch dumb stats like Georgia receiving a top-4 vote in both football and basketball (when they definitely didn’t deserve it in the latter case) into the record books.

[The Spun; photo from Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.