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An Interview with
YL: What is your profession?
Warren: I am a mechanical engineer.
YL: How does this relate to your computer ratings?
Warren: Well, it got me a job where some of my co-workers were also big college football fans and I guess between that and the BCS coming out it got me interested in making a computer ranking system of my own.
YL: Then that's a good thing. When did you develop this interest in rating teams?
Warren: Well, that would have been in the year leading up to the 1999 season. With the discovery of the other computer systems in the previous season I decided to see what kind of results I could produce.
YL: Did you have a particular reason that compelled you to do this other than your curiosity? This isn't the first place I played with numbers.
Warren: Well I am a big college football fan. Seeing these other systems out there I wanted to see if I was capable of producing similar results. A co-worker of mine also did a conference ranking system based on non-conference games. Between us we may have encouraged each other.
YL: In your viewpoint, what are the most important components of a good rating system?
Warren: A system must be completely objective. There can be no human influence once the season begins. Of course winning is the most important factor followed closely by quality-of-opponent.
YL: Do computer ratings have a future in sports?
Warren: I wish their future was a minimum one. I think a playoff is the best way to decide any champion. But perhaps the best way to select some of the teams for the playoff is with a computer ranking. So with the likelihood of biased rankings from humans, computer rankings may still have an important role to play in sports.
YL: I think you think as the rest of us do. I would like to have a system where the teams earn points and thus earn their playoff spots. Better still, there could be thirty-two conferences. Wouldn't that make it easy? I guess that's too easy.
Is your system a retrodictive one or a predictive one?
Warren: Well my friend who does the conference rankings has an idea to have a playoff only involving the conference champions. Every team must play every other team in the conference or play in a conference championship game. This way each conference has its own playoff and only the champions can play for the national championship.
My system began as a predictive one. Then I saw how hard it was to predict with any accuracy at the beginning of the year. After that I altered is slightly to become more of a retrodictive system. I still keep track of both numbers and in the last season I predicted 74.4% of the 1386 games I used in my system. But using my retrodictive system I ended up with 215 games where the winner is ranked below the loser or 84.5% accurate.
YL: That would have kept Nebraska out. But the BCS knows best, right? Only one team never lost and the rest we'll have to wonder about.
I also have a sort of retrodictive system that starts as predictive at the beginning of the year. It's impossible to do a retrodictive system that ideally places all the teams in some magical order so that a team is rated higher than all the teams it beat and lower than all the teams it lost to. This is incomprehensible to many people. We're really concerned with which team is better, not necessarily which team won a particular game. I would like to have seen Oregon vs. Florida with the winner taking on Miami - who, according to my retrodictive system, should have beaten Nebraska in a semi-final game and not in the championship.
But let's talk about you. Where do you call home?
Warren: I am from Wichita, KS. I grew up just outside of town and have lived my whole life in this area. The only years away from home were 5 years at college. I went to Kansas State and was on the football team all 5 years. I am a 4-year letterman and played in 45 games in my career. I even have the distinction of a bowl ring to my credit. I was there from 89-93.
YL: So I would be fairly safe in assuming that your favorite team is Kansas State and your favorite sport is football? You've accomplished a lot in the sports world and now you do computer ratings as someone who has been there. Any aspirations on coaching?
Warren: I have to see every K-State game that is on TV, which happens a lot more than it used to. No I don't think that I will ever coach as a profession. In the future I may do a little helping for my kid's team but I am probably too competitive even for that. However I am a high school football official. I just finished my sixth season of officiating and I do enjoy that very much. I must be crazy to enjoy getting yelled at for everything I do out there but I guess I do. One thing I can say about officiating is that I never win a game anymore but I have "lost" a lot of them.
YL: Enjoy life. Let the next generation do the work. Any interests outside football?
Warren: Well I have enjoyed playing softball for many years. But family has been most important the last couple of years and our daughter is two now.
YL: What else is there to know about Warren Claassen?
Warren: Not too much. I've already told more about myself in this interview than I have on my web site. I guess I should go change it a little now. Thanks.
YL: Things do tend to get outdated when you're busy.
We would like to thank Warren for the interview. Visit his ratings at http://home.kscable.com/claassen/collegefootball.htm
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