Wow, Christmas is 10 days away and I'm way behind in my shopping. I'm not worried. My philosophy is to hit the stores on December 23rd, get what I need, and get home without injury. Let's see what's in the mail bag...

* With football bowl season upon us, I always enjoy the stories that come out proving the college football rankings are biased. Heck, who needs a study to know that? Of course, they're biased. You have college football coaches voting. You don't think they're biased, especially the ones whose teams are in the Top 25?

But we have a study from Yale and Cal-Santa Barbara professors supporting allegations of bias and conflicts of interest in the coaches' poll, which helps determine the BCS standings. Matthew Kotchen, the Yale guy, and Matthew Potoski, the Cal-Santa Barbara guy, studied whether college football coaches' "reputation and financial incentives" bias the USA Today Coaches Poll. The USA Today poll is one of three ranking systems used to determine teams' BCS standings, which in turn decide which two teams receive invitations to the National Championship Game, and influence the teams invited to the four other BCS bowl games.

Using two statistical approaches to measure bias, the professors found that both approaches demonstrated the coaches' votes were biased by as much as two spots in favor of their team, as much as one spot in favor of teams in their athletic conference, and as much as half a spot in favor of teams they had defeated. The professors believe that the bias could be reduced if the ballots were made public throughout the season. At the present time, no voting coach has to divulge who he voted for. It's all secret ballot.

The researchers also determined that financial incentives surrounding bowl games skewed the voting. The results indicated that financial incentives led the coaches of teams in the six BCS conferences to rank the teams in their conference higher if those teams were on the cusp of receiving a bowl game invitation, and non-BCS coaches to rank non-BCS conference teams higher. The study found that a payoff of between \$3.3 and \$5 million dollars resulted in an increased ranking of one position, and larger payoffs had an even greater effect.

Kotchen remarked, "A lot of people raise these same issues and concerns in the media by referencing the decision of one coach. What we did is show that it is systematically occurring."

This was a great study, and I tip my hat to Kotchen and Potoski. But will the results of this study change the behavior and voting patterns of the USA Today coaches who vote in that poll? I highly doubt it.

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* Finally, another social media story that initially sounds bad, but it's actually just the sign of the times. The story circulating out of Texas A & M was that athletic director Bill Byrne fired football coach Mike Sherman with a phone call as Sherman was entering the house of a recruit. "How tacky is that?" you probably said to yourself.

Byrne said he had no choice because the story already had broken on Twitter after a leak to the media. And he didn't want Sherman to learn of the firing from a tweek. So the phone call was the only option he had.

This is also a great story because you get a clear picture of how a leak to social media can influence how an athletic director addresses the firing of a coach. Or the hiring of a coach. Byrne signed University of Houston coach Kevin Sumlin not long after the firing.

So you better be careful how you're using social media these days.

Author's Bio:

Steve Brennan, a former educator and college basketball coach, has Masters degrees in Educational Administration and Sport Psychology, and a Doctorate in Performance and Health Psychology. He is the author of several books, including Six Psychological Factors for Success and The Recruiters Bible (3rd Edition). He is President of Peak Performance Consultants, and the President and CEO of the Center for Performance Enhancement Research and Education (CPERE). Steve is the developer of the Success Factors Scales, both Corporate and Athletics Editions. http://www.peakperformanceconsult.com and http://thebestcollegerecruiter.com/