Coaches polls are taken weekly, starting after the third or fourth week of the regular season, and let you vote for your top 10 (hockey and baseball) or 15 (football and basketball) teams. After Friday's games, you will receive an e-mail with the teams eligible for the ballot. You can then log in to the DEL site and enter your ballot. You must list only teams that are eligible.
Voting is done through your team controls. When you go to the correct screen, you will see the ballot and have 10 or 15 entry spots, depending on the sport. Your ballot entries will initially be seeded with the top 10 or 15 teams on the ballot with the usual "+" and "-" buttons to move teams up and down. You are not required to keep those same 15 teams; you make select others off the ballot if desired. For your convienience, the computer ratings are posted with the ballot options. These are not the same computer ratings visible elsewhere, however; they have been biased slightly to account for tendencies observed by comparing real-life voting to computer rankings. To see the normal computer ratings, you will need to go to the normal place on the website.
Before Monday's games (or at game time Monday in football), the votes will be tallied and results announced. The tabulation process is more complex than in real-life polls, in which a point value is awarded each team based on the vote given. In the DEL polls, a team's position relative to another team is based primarily on whether the majority of voters voted them above or below. A team thus does not benefit by a small contingent of coaches voting that team several spots higher than a rival. Ties are broken by the comparisons of the tied teams.
This system is equivalent to making each comparison a "game" between the two teams, with the team being higher on more ballots considered to have won. Teams are ordered by their records, with ties broken first by head-to-head comparisons of the tied teams and second by the winning margins of those head-to-head comparisons.
In order to further discourage vote throwing, the following safeguards are in place:
- The position of your team on your ballot is ignored; your team's position relative to other teams is based solely on other ballots.
- The computer will check your ballot and compare it with the six computer ratings. If any of your votes (or non-votes) are deemed unreasonable, your ballot will be given less weight when ballots are added, or could be ignored altogether.
The voting results show the number of teams that each team beat, as well as the breakdown of team-by-team voting. The breakdown shows the fraction of ballots in which the team was placed higher than each opponent.
College football is the only sport in which the coaches' polls affect the game, in that the coaches' polls are incorporated in the BCS formula. As with real-life, the coaches' poll counts as one quarter of the poll+computer average part of the BCS rating. However, the commissioner has the option of throwing out the coaches' poll and using only the writers' poll in determining the BCS if he feels that the coaches' poll is invalid. Hopefully with the safeguards above, this will never be needed.