Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Follow-Up: Earl's record breaking performance

Earl Bennett had an All-American performance against Richmond with 13 catches, 3 touchdowns, and 223 receiving yards. Photo by VUCommodores.
I was thinking this morning about how to get some resolution on this statistics adjustment issue – and I think I have a way. Consider that there are three possible scenarios:

1. The ‘live,’ Yahoo box score and the official, VUCommodores box score originate from two unique sources in the Fred Russell Press Box. The live one is an approximation prone to errors, and its 221 total and proximity to the record is strictly a coincidence.

2. Both box scores originate from the same source in the press box, but changes were made soon after the plays. For example, the live box score has a Richmond drive ending on fourth down at the 12 and the Vanderbilt drive beginning at the 11. That might have been sent through the modem on the live stream and then quickly corrected – but that correction is not sent through until after the game is finished.

In either of these cases – the honest mistake categories – the halftime stats should reflect pace towards the 223 yards total (remember, both plays in question happened during the 2nd Quarter). The halftime stats are compiled by Media Relations and are (mostly) official – they provide a snapshot of what the official box score was halfway through the game.

3. Someone deliberately went back and ‘found’ two extra yards for Bennett to give him the record. In this case the halftime stats should reflect pace towards the 221 total, since those two extra yards weren’t folded in until after the game when it was clear they were needed for the record.

So, what did Joe Fisher say at the half? Was it 76 yards (on track for 221) or 78 yards (on track for 223)?

“Receiving, Earl Bennett, eight catches 78 yards and two touchdowns.”

You’re not guilty for looking suspicious, and the two yards that account for the difference in Earl’s record were part of the official box score at halftime. The difference came because either the ‘live’ one is done independent of the official or adjustments were made soon after the plays for justified reasons.

So, I would conclude that no one deliberately boosted Earl’s stats to get him the record. Which is a good thing - cause it really looked suspicious.


Colonel said...

I've never worked at Vanderbilt, but I have worked in sports information and been an official statistician for games other places.

The Yahoo/ESPN/CBS Sportsline/whatever stats are UNOFFICIAL. I'm not sure I've ever followed a game through Yahoo where they didn't credit a basket or a reception or whatever to a guy who was redshirted, graduated, or (my personal favorite) U. Player (unknown player).

Just because they don't match up with the official stats doesn't mean there's something fishy going on.

Some coaches different places do try to manipulate stats, but it's much more common in sports like soccer, volleyball and even baseball than it is in football and basketball.

Mark said...

Totally true - which is why I dismissed the whole thing before realizing that the difference in 221 yards and 223 yards was also the difference in breaking the 222 yard school record.

Even thou ESPN's live Vandy stats comes from the press box, you're right that the process is prone to little errors like 2 yards or U. Player. And it was just a coincidence that those little errors appeared like manipulation in the final box score...

Anonymous said...

Always appreciate when a site corrects itself, especially with thorough research! You guys must be Vanderbilt grads!!

Earl is the man.

Diezba said...

Yes we are -- and you can read how we are under "Future Grantland Rices" in the left-hand column.