West Coast Bias - originally published 2003

Note: this article was originally published in 2003. While USC players have won quite a few Trophies in recent years, it doesn't change the fact there is a structural bias against the West Coast built-in to the Trophy voting process.

West Coast Bias?

For years, some sports commentators have alleged a "West Coast bias" in the H------- voting system. Some have argued that the existence of three H------- regions in the Eastern Time Zone causes bias. Others have argued that the bias is a natural outgrowth of the fact that West Coast games are often aired "past bedtime" in the East.

Biased by Design

I'll argue that it's much simpler than that. The H------- voting system is biased against the West Coast, because it's designed to be biased. American democracy is founded on the principle of equal representation. While there's no requirement that voting for a sports trophy must be democratic, it is a worthy goal. At a minimum, we can evaluate whether the H------- Trophy adheres to principles of equal representation - and then make our own judgments.

So... in order to determine whether the H------- voting system is based on equal representation, we have to ask: equal representation of what? Division I-A Colleges? NCAA Colleges? Athletes? Football Players? Sportswriters? Americans? Once you've determined what to count, you've got to count them - and that creates all kinds of definitional problems, not to mention the practicalities of doing a count.

Fortunately for us, there's already a well-established counting system in the United States: the Census counts everybody, every ten years, like clockwork.

For H------- voting purposes, the nation is divided into six regions - each of which get 145 votes. Put another way, each region gets exactly 16.66 percent of the votes. (Every living H------- winner also gets a vote, but that's a good thing we'll set aside for this discussion.)

Unfortunately for the H------- folks, the regions don't break down nicely into 1/6 of the population each. Instead, three regions (Far West, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic) have more population than that - and three have less (Northeast, South, and Southwest). In fact, the Far West has the greatest population at 21.1% of the country and the Northeast has the least - 11.9%.

What's the solution?

It's easy - just re-apportion the H------- votes to the regions according to population (option A). Easier still, the governing body of the H------- could simply rely on the decennial reapportionment of Congressional seats. After all, there's 435 members of Congress -- just double the number assigned to each state, and presto! you've got 870 H------- voters apportioned properly (option B).

What would that look like?

Region/StatesPopulation% of USAOption (A)Option (B)Currently
Far West:
(Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming)
(Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia)
(Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin)
(Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont)
(Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee)
(Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.)

Option C would be to re-organize the states into more equal regions. What's South Dakota doing in the Far West anyway? Why aren't South Carolina and Virginia in the South?

The Bottom Line

Awarded through a democratic and meritocratic process, the H------- Trophy embodies the best of American athletics. The governing body of the H------- should seek to minimize geographic bias in the voting process by equally apportioning votes by population.

by Kari Chisholm, Portland, Oregon. © 2003

Kari Chisholm | October 1, 2003 | Comment on This Post (1 so far)
Permalink: West Coast Bias - originally published 2003



Distribution of voters solely being the cause for bias assumes voters are either misinformed or just plain ole homers when they vote. I prefer to think most of them really do strive to look at who is "THE BEST" football player across the nation. Having said that, how do the numbers actually stack up, i.e. where have most of the H..... winners come from vs where the distribution suggests voters came from. Will the human factor ever impact the votes? Yes, and in very close races the outcomes. I think they should not allow voters to vote early. Wait till a week after the championship games to allow emotions to cool, and to allow thinking to prevail.

Posted by: Greg | Dec 8, 2009 2:13:16 PM

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