Of all the coaches that vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun was the only one to put Oklahoma State outside of the top four. He had the Cowboys ranked fifth behind, in order, LSU, Alabama, Stanford and Arkansas.
As such, Calhoun is not very popular in Oklahoma right now.
“(T)he fans and media here in Oklahoma are killing him,” Jennifer Singleton, wife of former Air Force running backs coach and current Oklahoma State running backs coach Jemal Singleton, posted on Twitter.
Calhoun took the time in a series of emails today to explain his rationale. First, we can look at Calhoun’s voting history, since he is the only coach who is known to share his ballot every week. On Nov. 13, Calhoun had Oklahoma State No. 2 on his ballot. That week, the Cowboys lost to Iowa State. On Nov. 20, Calhoun moved Oklahoma State to No. 9. He had SEC teams in the top three spots, which will help explain his rationale on his Dec. 5 ballot. Oklahoma State was eighth on his ballot Nov. 27, Then came his final ballot. All of the coaches poll ballots on Dec. 5 are public (I wanted to mention that, although other coaches may allow others in the sports information staff to do the voting and put their name on it, I get Calhoun’s ballot from his own email every week, and have been assured he does all of it).
Calhoun’s ballot drew some ire (one commenter on this blog called him a “horrible human being,” and Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Rick Bozich called out Calhoun for his vote). To Calhoun, Arkansas’ losses at LSU and at Alabama – his No. 1 and 2 teams – weren’t as damaging as Oklahoma State’s loss to Iowa State, and he gave a lot of credit to the level of competition Arkansas plays, going against “SEC bodies” every week.
“Both losses vs. clear cut two best teams in country at Tuscaloosa and at Baton Rouge,” Calhoun said in an email explaining placing 2-loss Arkansas over Oklahoma State.
Very simply, Calhoun has a lot of respect for SEC football.
“SEC football is like Big East hoops from ’85-’87,” Calhoun said in an email. “If you dispersed teams to regional playoffs, when you have to earn trips to Final Fours there may be 2 or 3 SEC teams there. Kind of like those Final Fours which included Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Providence and St John’s.”
Calhoun also shared his list of strengths and weaknesses of his top teams, and what he considered for each of them. Here it is (cleaned up a bit for grammar and punctuation):
Tough decision between 4 teams (Stanford, OK St, Arkansas and Oregon) for spots 3-6.
Stanford won in LA vs USC, Dominant both offensively and defensively in many games, willing to play good non-conf game vs Notre Dame
OK St- very explosive offensively, best win at home in close one over K St, also top 20 W’s over Baylor and depleted (lost RBs and WRs late in season) Oklahoma, played 6 road games
Oregon won 11 games to include at Stanford, won a conf championship game, willing to play non conf game vs LSU in Dallas
Arkansas play in superb football league, physical and athletic on both sides of ball, convincing win over South Carolina, willing to play non-conf game in Dallas each year vs Texas A&M
Stanford- Down 2 plus scores most of game at home vs Oregon
OK St- Lost late in season vs 6-6 Iowa State (Although do think tragedy of accident 24 hours prior has to be considered w/ their women’s hoops coaches)
Arkansas- Lost at Tuscaloosa and lost at Baton Rouge
Oregon- Lost at home vs USC