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Conflicts of Interest Distort Public Evaluations: Evidence from the Top 25 Ballots of NCAA Football Coaches

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  • Matthew Kotchen
  • Matthew Potoski

Abstract

This paper provides a study on conflicts of interest among college football coaches participating in the USA Today Coaches Poll of top 25 teams. The Poll provides a unique empirical setting that overcomes many of the challenges inherent in conflict of interest studies, because many agents are evaluating the same thing, private incentives to distort evaluations are clearly defined and measurable, and there exists an alternative source of computer rankings that is bias free. Using individual coach ballots between 2005 and 2010, we find that coaches distort their rankings to reflect their own team's reputation and financial interests. On average, coaches rank teams from their own athletic conference nearly a full position more favorably and boost their own team's ranking more than two full positions. Coaches also rank teams they defeated more favorably, thereby making their own team look better. When it comes to ranking teams contending for one of the high-profile Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games, coaches favor those teams that generate higher financial payoffs for their own team. Reflecting the structure of payoff disbursements, coaches from non-BCS conferences band together, while those from BCS conferences more narrowly favor teams in their own conference. Among all coaches an additional payoff between $3.3 and $5 million induces a more favorable ranking of one position. Moreover, for each increase in a contending team's payoff equal to 10 percent of a coach's football budget, coaches respond with more favorable rankings of half a position, and this effect is more than twice as large when coaches rank teams outside the top 10.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17628.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17628

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  1. M.Utku Unver, 2004. "Unraveling Yields Inefficient Matching: Evidence from Post-Season College Football Bowls," Working Papers 259, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2004.
  2. Ashcraft, A. & Goldsmith-Pinkham, P. & Vickery, J., 2010. "MBS Ratings and the Mortgage Credit Boom," Discussion Paper 2010-89S, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  3. Steven Levitt & John List & Sally Sadoff, 2010. "Checkmate: Exploring backward induction among chess players," Artefactual Field Experiments 00081, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. B. Jay Coleman & Andres Gallo & Paul M. Mason & Jeffrey W. Steagall, 2010. "Voter Bias in the Associated Press College Football Poll," Journal of Sports Economics, , vol. 11(4), pages 397-417, August.
  5. Lalith Munasinghe & Brendan O'Flaherty & Stephan Danninger, 2001. "Globalization and the Rate of Technological Progress: What Track and Field Records Show," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(5), pages 1132-1149, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Rodney J. Andrews & Trevon D. Logan & Michael J. Sinkey, 2012. "Identifying Confirmatory Bias in the Field: Evidence from a Poll of Experts," NBER Working Papers 18064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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