Top 25 celebrates 20th anniversary as writers poll
This season marks the 20th anniversary of the AP women’s basketball Top 25 poll’s shift to voting by writers and broadcasters.
Before the 1994-95 season, the poll was determined by coaches and compiled by Mel Greenberg, who started it in 1976.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights over the past 20 years:
STOP THE PRESSES: During the first season of the poll, No. 1 Tennessee was facing second-ranked UConn in an afternoon game on Martin Luther King’s birthday. With the poll typically coming out in the morning Monday, the decision was made to hold it until after that game was played.
“We thought why wait a whole another week when the No. 1 team could change later that day,” said former AP Sports Writer Chuck Schoffner, who was in charge of the Top 25 when it first started as a writers’ poll. “Connecticut pulling off the victory really turned it into a great decision.”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma remembers how huge that decision was.
“I remember them saying how they were going to hold off on the voting until after that game and how big of a deal that was,” he said. “It just added to the enormity of that game.”
The Huskies didn’t relinquish the top spot the rest of the season.
CONNECTICUT DOMINANCE: Auriemma’s team has been ranked in every poll since the writer’s took over including a whopping 178 weeks in first. That’s 47 percent of the time.
“Wow that’s pretty amazing,” the UConn coach said. “You can say, you’ve been in it so many years, is it a big deal to you guys? It’s not about that. It’s about a team cracking the Top 25 for the first time, or a team making it into the Top 10 for the first time. It’s a sign of the progress you’ve made and the respect you’re getting from people around the country.”
“The fact that the media pays enough attention to want to do it is great for our sport.”
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF THE POLL: Over the past 20 years, 112 teams have reached the Top 25, including 13 that have held the top spot. Only Tennessee and Connecticut have been in the poll each of the 377 weeks.
GETTING THAT VOTE IN: Dan Fleser of the Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel is one of a handful of writers who has been on the poll board since the start. He recalled a time early in the balloting before cell phones and email existed when he had to get his vote in one late Sunday night.
Fleser was driving back from a game at Vanderbilt and stopped at a gas station to use the pay phone to call his ballot in.
“The key thing back then if you were on the road was to find a well lit area that had some cover since it was usually pretty cold late at night,” he said.
On this particular evening, while Fleser was dictating his ballot he heard a loud noise overhead every minute or so that made it difficult to hear the agate clerk on the other end. Fleser looked up to see a rotating billboard as the cause of the problem.
So he timed how long each switch of the billboard was and would rattle off five teams into the phone before the advertisement would switch. It took a few extra minutes that night to finally get his ballot in.
“Clearly technology has made life easier now with the internet and tracking games,” Fleser said. “It’s harder now because there are more teams to consider because there are more resources available to you.”
FULL CIRCLE: Rebecca Lobo always used to check out the polls when she was a kid not only looking at who the Top 25 teams were but also the ones who were receiving votes. She was on that UConn team in 1995 that beat Tennessee and also remembered the excitement of how the poll was held that day.
Now, 20 years later she’s part of the poll board for the first time this season.
“It’s really cool that today when the first poll came out I was still looking to see who was receiving votes and now I was like, ‘Wait, I voted for that team,’” she said. “It really is a great responsibility and one that I’m proud to have.”
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