The Significance and Influence of the AP Poll in College Sports

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In the world of college sports in the United States, few things hold as much influence and prestige as the Associated Press (AP) Poll. The AP Poll has been a staple in American sports culture for decades, serving as a barometer for evaluating the performance of college football and basketball teams. This article explores the history, methodology, and impact of the AP Poll in college athletics.

The Origins of the AP Poll

The AP Poll, established in 1936, was initially designed to provide a weekly ranking of the top college football teams. It was the brainchild of Alan J. Gould, a sports editor for the Associated Press. Gould aimed to create a system that could objectively rank college football teams and provide a more accurate representation of their performance throughout the season.


The methodology behind the AP Poll is relatively straightforward. A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters from across the country, known as the AP Top 25 panel, vote on their top 25 college football and basketball teams each week during the respective seasons. These votes are then tallied to create the official rankings.

While the panel members are not required to follow specific criteria when making their selections, many consider factors such as team records, strength of schedule, head-to-head matchups, and overall performance. The goal is to create a ranking that reflects the collective opinion of the panelists and provides a snapshot of the current landscape in college sports.

Impact on College Sports

National Recognition: The AP Poll offers teams the opportunity to gain national recognition and exposure. Being ranked in the top 25 is a significant achievement and can attract attention from fans, recruits, and media outlets.

Playoff and Bowl Game Selection: In college football, the AP Poll plays a crucial role in determining which teams are selected for prestigious bowl games and, more recently, the College Football Playoff. High rankings can lead to invitations to top-tier postseason games.

Recruiting Advantage: A strong presence in the AP Poll can help colleges and universities attract top-tier student-athletes. Players are often drawn to programs with a history of success and a strong national ranking.

Fan Engagement: The AP Poll generates enthusiasm among college sports fans. Weekly debates and discussions about the rankings are common, creating a sense of anticipation and engagement throughout the season.

Historical Significance: Over the years, the AP Poll has become a historical record of college sports. It allows fans to track the rise and fall of teams, memorable upsets, and dominant eras in college athletics.

Controversies and Criticisms

While the AP Poll is widely respected, it is not without its share of controversies and criticisms. Some argue that the voting process is inherently subjective and can lead to biases. Additionally, the AP Poll does not factor into the official selection process for college football’s playoff, which relies on a separate committee’s rankings.


The Associated Press Poll is a venerable institution in the world of college sports. Its ability to capture the attention of fans, shape the narratives of college football and basketball seasons, and impact the postseason selection process make it a powerful force in the collegiate athletics landscape. Despite its imperfections and occasional controversies, the AP Poll remains an enduring symbol of the passion and tradition of college sports in the United States.

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