“The Look In”
“The situation is different in college football, at least in theory. For a college football coach, victory is only one of several objectives. If players graduate, if the team represents the school in a positive manner and attracts students and donations, a college football coach can have a good season despite losses. One of the things wrong with NCAA football is that increasingly it is treated, including by ESPN, like pro football — as if all that mattered was wins. But at least in theory, a college football coach can do a good job even if his team loses.”
– TMQ 01-01-2013, Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN
My eye was caught at the beginning of this Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ) article as Gregg Easterbrook covers a subject that I believe is often mentioned, but rarely analyzed beyond the surface: that there is significantly more elements to success in college sports (namely, education) than in professional sports. As Gregg touches upon in this excerpt, the metrics by which a college coach is measured (e.g. in football) can and should include several other factors beyond just the final standings and bowl appearances. In fact, in such a data-driven sports world, there is a wealth of information and statistics that are have been developed to measure, analyze and scrutinize a team’s on-field performance. They range from “old school” metrics like W-L record, Strength of Schedule and first-order statistics (e.g. points, rebounds, home-runs, touchdowns) to “new-school” Sabrematrician metrics with names like Total QBR, Player PER or WAR.
However, amidst this ever-evolving and expanding field of sports statisticians, it seems as though we (as sports fans collective) have chosen to neglect the incorporation or advancement of any statistic that pulls in performance off-the-field. I understand that at its heart, the whole nature of sports metrics is to evaluate performance while actually engaging in the given sport/activity, but don’t we have to also remember that what we are evaluating are people too? And, of all sports industries and levels, wouldn’t it be the MOST important to consider other off-the-field activities and performance at the college level where we distinctly call every team member a student-athlete?
For many of us non-athletes, we are often encouraged and/or instructed to considerably supplement our “core” or “on-the-field” performance (e.g. grades in school or revenue for a salesman) with active involvement and high performance in other extracurricular or “off-the-field” activities like volunteer work or training/certifications. Then, when we go to apply for jobs or are evaluated at the end of a performance period, our “off-the-field” performance is significantly factored in to the assessment or “ranking” (albeit considerably less than our “core” performance, but is considered nonetheless). Thus, if many of us encounter this type of evaluation in our day jobs, why wouldn’t we want to extend the same expectations and performance evaluations to our student-athletes?
Read on: Part II – “The Sign”
This article is part of the monthly three-part series entitled “Sport: A Case by Case Basis.” Each monthly series features a condensed case study analysis that will be broken into three parts: “The Look In,” “The Sign” and “The Pitch.” See the overview page in the About the Site section for more information.