Bill James Rips the BCS, Calls on Fellow Statistical Analysts to Boycott

In the years when the BCS works more or less as well as can be expected, and the top two teams play each other for the national championship, the powers that be in college football like to pat themselves on the back for using computer rankings as part of the BCS formula. "See?" they say, "We're using the computers to make sure we have a fair, objective system."

And then in the years when the BCS doesn't work well, and college football fans are up in arms, the powers that be in college football like to blame the computer rankings in the BCS formula. "The poll voters got it right," they say, "But the computers messed everything up."

And so it goes, year after year, with the powers that be in college football using and misusing statistical analysis to suit their own needs. And now the most influential statistical analyst in the history of sports says he's fed up.

In a great article at, Bill James calls on his fellow statistical analysts to stop participating in the BCS. According to James, analysts like Peter Wolfe and Jeff Sagarin -- though they mean well -- end up harming both statistical analysis and college football more than they help it when they allow the BCS to use their formulas. James says (and I agree) that it's absurd that the BCS has told the Wolfe and Sagarin and the rest that they're not allowed to use margin of victory in their formulas.

James writes:

Look, guys, none of us are claiming that the statistical analysts understand the game of football as well as the football coaches do, or that our analysis should take precedence over the informed opinions of experts. I'm not saying that at all.

But at the same time, statistical analysts are professional people. Heck, some of us are almost as smart as football coaches-high-school football coaches, anyway. There is no point in our participating in the process if you're going to tell us how to do the analysis based on your ignorant, backward-looking prejudices. Run your own damned computers.

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We'd all be better off if college football just did away with the BCS entirely. But if college football is going to keep the BCS, it ought to be done right. And as long as people who know nothing about quantitative analysis are dictating which data can be included in the computer rankings, the BCS is done wrong.

Bill James Rips the BCS, Calls on Fellow Statistical Analysts to Boycott originally appeared on NCAA Football FanHouse on Wed, 07 Jan 2009 18:31:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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