Edson: Here’s How the High School Rankings Work
Every week during the fall and winter, the Associated Press produces the rankings for high school football, plus girls’ and boys’ basketball.
As I watch people look over these rankings in restaurants or bars, I sometimes hear them ask their friends, "I wonder how they come up with these rankings?"
Well, as someone who spent more than 20 years as a poll chairman for the A.P., here is what happens.
First of all, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press put out their own rankings. When I was the chair of the Class A football and boys’ basketball poll, I worked alongside Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press and Tom Markowski of the Detroit News. We would talk back and forth about records on an almost weekly basis.
But while the Detroit papers had their polls, the Associated Press polls are compiled much differently. We had voters in each section of the state.
For instance, our Class A poll was heavily dominated by downstate voters since there are so few Class A schools north of Grand Rapids.
I would be the representative for all the Class A schools in the north, including the Upper Peninsula. The other voters came from the Grand Rapids, Lansing, Flint and Detroit papers. That gave us good representation and also helped us compile accurate win-loss records.
Here is how the voting works. Every voter would phone in or e-mail in their top 15 for the week. The team that was voted No. 1 would be assigned 15 points. If all five voters had the same team as No. 1, you would multiply 5 by 15 and come up with a perfect score of 75 points.
So when you look at the next A.P. poll either in your newspaper or online, you can pay attention to the points. The No. 2 team would get 14 points, right on down to the 15th team, which would get one point.
Of course, everyone’s poll could be a little bit different. So after the top 10 teams are ranked, you’ll see an honorable mention list.
Those are the teams that got votes but not enough to land in the top 10. The voters on these A.P. panels take their jobs pretty seriously. If they can’t find the correct record for a team, they’ll sometimes end up calling the school or even the coach to get the record correct.
The voting is done every Monday morning and by late that evening the results are sent to A.P. newspaper, TV and radio stations around the state.
The polls, of course, are meant to draw interest to high school sports and give the fans something to talk about. I think they’ve done their jobs well over the years.
As we head into February and start the stretch run toward March Madness, I figured that would give you a better idea of how teams earn their rankings and who does the judging.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.