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The AP Top 25 has been around since 1936. Who votes and how does it work?

The Associated Press college football poll started in 1936, the brainchild of former sports editor Alan J. Gould

Colorado cornerback Travis Hunter (12) is dragged down after a short gain by Colorado State defensive back Henry Blackburn
Colorado cornerback Travis Hunter (12) is dragged down after a short gain by Colorado State defensive back Henry Blackburn, back left, and defensive back Ayden Hector during the first half of an NCAA college football game, September 16, 2023.David Zalubowski (AP)

The Associated Press college football poll started in 1936, the brainchild of former sports editor Alan J. Gould.

The number of teams ranked, the number of voters on the panel and how the ballots are tabulated has fluctuated over the years, but no organization has been ranking teams and naming a major college football national champion longer than the AP. It has been the Top 10, Top 20 and, since 1989, the Top 25.

Here is how it works:

Who are the voters?

AP Top 25 voters are writers and broadcasters who cover college football for organizations that are members of the AP.

AP employees do not vote, but they do choose the voters. In recent years, the number of voters has been around 63, and they come from all over the country.

Every state with a Bowl Subdivision school is represented by at least one voter, and the total of number of voters from each state increases with the number of FBS teams. There are also four spots reserved for national voters.

How do they vote?

There was a time when voters called, emailed and faxed their votes to the AP. Long ago, the ballots were tabulated by hand.

Now voting is done online and all the tabulation is automated.

There is a 1-25 point system, with a team voted No. 1 receiving 25 points down to 1 for a 25th-place vote. After that, it’s simple: The poll lists the teams with the most points from 1 to 25 and others receiving votes are also noted.

When is the voting done?

Except for the preseason poll and the final poll the night of the national championship game, polls are released on Sunday afternoons. That gives voters time to assess the results of Saturday’s games ahead of the poll release at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Voting guidelines

The AP allows broad latitude for voters to determine their rankings. They are urged to base their votes on performance, not reputation or preseason speculation; to avoid regional bias, for or against; to pay attention to head-to-head results; to make ignificant changes if desired.

Teams on NCAA probation are eligible for the AP poll.

Awards and All-America teams

AP poll voters also participate in the selection of AP honors. Coach and player of the year voting is done on a top three basis, with 3 points for first-place, 2 for second and 1 for third. The voters also select both the preseason and postseason AP All-America teams.

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