I cover South Dakota State University football. I get asked how good they are and I say, “pretty good” which is pretty lame. So how do we know? Go to the poll!
We love to rank stuff. Put any information/topic/movie/football team into a Top (#) (any subject) format and you’ve got something we can all agree or disagree or agree to disagree on.
To track the Jacks and the Bison and the Coyotes and the Leathernecks and the North Dakota Team you can go by the FCS Coaches Poll… which I am pretty sure most of the coaches have little or nothing to do with, OR… you can go to the Sports Network FCS Top 25.
The SNFCST25 is put together by media and sports information personnel who pay way more attention than the coaches do to what is going on outside of their own program.
While the SNFCST25 is not a science, does not determine the outcome of games or feed hungry children it does play a big part in the weekly psyche of all of us in our little FCS world.
The poll is put together by 171 voters who represent the 13 FCS conferences + six independent programs.
Ryan Powell at the University of North Dakota reps the Big Sky.
Jeff Schwartz and Jeff Kolpack in Fargo rep the Missouri Valley. So do Jason Hove at South Dakota State, Terry Vandrovec at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Bryan Boettcher at South Dakota and Jeremy Hoeck at the Yankton Press & Dakotan.
Patrick Osterman is the Director of Athletic Media Services at Western Illinois. He has been a SNFCST25 voter since 2005.
“I take it seriously,” he says. “It’s an honor to cast a ballot.”
The ballot goes out on Sunday and voters return it on Monday.
“The folks at The Sports Network make it pretty easy on us pollsters each week,” says Powell. “We are sent a direct link via email where we sign in and have last week’s top 25 next to the entire list of FCS teams. I put that website on half of my screen, then use an email from the Sports Network that shows me the results from last week’s week games that includes the previous top 25 and the teams that were just outside of the poll. “
Hoeck, a voter since 2009, has four fairly firm guidelines. “If the top 5 win you keep them there. If you win you never move down. If you beat a ranked team you move up. If there are FCS upsets you can move up.”
Osterman and Hoeck say the hardest poll to piece together is the pre-season poll when they are basing almost everything on the previous year. After that, the process gets a little more objective.
“I’ll take a hard look at the results,” says Powell, “and do some further research into the games if anything looks out of the ordinary in an upset or a loss to a FBS opponent. Once back to the polling site, you can just adjust the schools by moving them up and down or dragging them out of the poll all together and adding new teams that might have sprung a big upset or been one of those close to entering the poll the prior week. “
And, wah-lah! You’ve got yourself a SNFCST25.
There is bound to be a little inherent and unconscious bias based on geography and conference loyalty.
There is bound to be some “pollitics” (sorry) and Hoeck admits there is a small degree of “group think” in the process.
But in the end we’ve got a snapshot of the national picture, put together by people who pay attention.
Thanks to Patrick and Ryan and Jeremy for their input. And, by the way, here is the latest Top 25.