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Talk with D-Rok

By Derek Helling, Sports Editor | Jan 23, 2014

This week I got registered to submit ballots for the Associated Press’ weekly Iowa boys’ basketball poll. It’s an honor that I’m excited about and a responsibility that I take seriously as the sports editor of The Washington Evening Journal. I’m taking it even more seriously than I do cheeseburger toppings and if you know me personally, you know that’s a big deal. The registration process brought to my attention something that I found intriguing.
The AP in Iowa does not compile a weekly poll for the state’s girls’ basketball teams. I’m not trying to cast the AP in Iowa as a group of misogynistic old misers wearing double-breasted suits complete with matching vests, brass pocket watches on chains attached, sitting in tall easy chairs in a room with oil paintings of President McKinley, filling the air with their cigar smoke, sipping on whiskey poured from a crystal container and discussing how they can keep the women out of sports. The AP in Iowa does give girls’ basketball and girls’ sports at large a lot of press.
The fact is that there is a weekly ranking for the state of Iowa’s girls’ basketball teams, put out by the Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union. The ranking is put together by the Assistant Director of the IGHSAU, Jason Eslinger.
Eslinger is certainly qualified to rank the state’s teams and does a tremendous job of taking on what is a daunting task every week during the girls’ basketball season. The legitimacy of the IGHSAU rankings is not being questioned.
Luke Meredith, sports writer for AP Iowa, added some more interesting information to the situation.
Meredith said that in his time, nearly nine years, working in sports for AP Iowa, I was the first to even inquire about why there isn’t an AP girls’ poll. Furthermore, he says that he has never heard of or seen anything resembling any momentum for the AP to compile a weekly poll for girls’ basketball teams in that time either.
The consensus among the Washington area’s high school girls’ basketball coaches is that the IGHSAU ranking is satisfactory and sufficient for conducting the business of running high school girls’ basketball in the state. There are concerns about whether the media across the state would be able to accurately rank the teams, as their ability to see all the teams play is obviously limited.
At the same time they agree there would be some value in an AP poll for high school girls’ basketball. Putting the letters AP in front of anything gives it legitimacy in the public view similar to putting the letters Dr. in front of your name makes people think you can accurately diagnose their knee pain and give them a remedy regardless of the fact that the doctorate degree is in botany.
The potential benefits from a girls’ AP poll are numerous. New conversations could be had by the general public and media about the weekly polls. It could infuse a new degree of enthusiasm about high school girls’ basketball, as Columbus’ girls’ head coach Kasey Keltner said, “polls could give fans and athletes pride in their teams’ accomplishments.”
Another benefit of enhanced coverage by the media and awareness by the general public of girls’ basketball that an AP poll could bring is simply more butts in the seats at games, more walking tacos (and the like) sold in the concession stands, more merchandise sales, etc.
Heightened awareness, increased coverage and stronger attendance would heighten the experience for the most important people in this conversation, the student-athletes. Most of the girls playing high school basketball in Iowa won’t play the sport collegiately, much less professionally. Bringing the game’s exposure to a higher level will enrich the memories of these young women.
Games between teams highly ranked in the AP poll could become events that fans and media flock to. That could create new profits for restaurants, hotels and gas stations. All the possibilities add up to an increase in revenue for communities and schools.  
In addressing the concern about whether or not the media would be able to accurately rank all the state’s teams not having seen many of them play, I argue that the media members (myself included) who vote in the weekly AP boys’ poll don’t see all the teams they vote for play on a regular basis. The poll still carries weight in the state. A girls’ poll should not be any less legitimate simply because of that fact.
It’s obvious that the IGHSAU rankings work for creating the state tournament bracket for girls’ basketball. There’s no reason to try to fix what’s not broke. However, I believe an AP poll for high school girls’ basketball could co-exist without discrediting the IGHSAU’s authority to conduct the state tournament.
An AP poll for high school girls’ basketball in Iowa could create more exposure for the sport in the media and as a result increase its popularity among the general public, which could mean additional revenue for the state and make the experience of playing basketball in high school better for Iowa’s young women. Everyone wins.

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