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What the Heck Does That Stat Say?

Thursday, September 17, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 2:16 PM, under

In college sports, there is one statistical computing program that has a near lock on the market in the football press box: StatCrew.


StatCrew screenshot

Green Screens Rule: Green screen applications like StatCrews'
"The Automated Scorebook" shown here rule when it comes to fast data entry.
That is why you
see so many green screen applications still used in banking and manufacturing.

It may look like a throwback to pre-Windows days, but green screen programs like this are still in widespread use in many industries. They are fast and efficient, much more so than many programs with fancy user-interfaces.


The Automated ScoreBook For Football, first sold in 1995, is used by over 1300 colleges and high schools, including Army, Miami, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The software is also used at several NCAA conference offices including the Big 12, Conference USA, and more, as well as at several bowl games including the Fiesta, Orange, Cotton, and Citrus bowls. It's also used by the AFL, AF2, NIFL, UIFL, and AIFL.


But it does not mean that the output always makes sense, or that people are totally enamored with the product. I talked to one user last year that was totally frustrated that the program could not run on Windows Vista. Given the fact that that is virtually the only Windows OS you can buy off the shelf these days, that was problematic at the time. It now officially supports 32-bit Vista (sorry to all of you 64-bit users out there).

Then there are the quirks that arise during the game. Last weekend, while doing official stats for FSN South/SportsSouth at the South Carolina - Georgia game, my ears got a collective "huh?" and "what the heck is that and how is it possible?" when the graphics coordinator in the truck and the talent statistician looked at an on-screen passing stat that looked like this:


StatCrew screenshot



It was indeed a head-scratcher, and the press box stats crew did not make it up. They said the computer does it automatically based on what the play was.

So here was the scenario. Joe Cox threw the ball five yards and the receiver gained three more on his own. The receiver then fumbled the ball away and the defense brought it back 3 yards. So the computer gives Cox credit for the 8 yard completion, but deducts the fumble return yards. Hence the long pass of only five yards when he has a completion.

But you will not find this scenario in the Official NCAA Football Statisticians manual (note that I am still looking). The reality is that at that point in the game, "the long pass", especially one so short, does not mean a whole lot.


Talent Statistician at Work

Trust in Technology: During a live game broadcast, a statistician needs to know if his/her numbers are right and if they sync with the official statistics being kept in the press box.
Image Copyright 2007-2009 by Eye on Sports Media/The Cayuga Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


But if that is what the computer is spitting out, regardless of what the program is, people start to wonder about the credibility of the data. Human error can be addressed, and the use of green screen technology makes that much easier to do.

But then again, who really pays attention to all of those statistics shown on TV anyway? The real use comes in fantasy football leagues, right?

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