An Interview with
YL: What are the most important factors in rating sports teams?
Wes: For the more typical team sports, such as football and basketball, you can try to use score or something, or even secondary stats such as scoring defense, but I tend to believe that winning is the name of the game, and therefore stick with wins and losses as the basis of my system.
Wins and losses alone work very well for rating professional teams, because the number of games is large (relative to the number of teams), and the level of the teams is quite similar. In college sports, those two criteria are not nearly met, and a strength of schedule component MUST be added.
YL: Is your system predictive or retrodictive?
Wes: Well, retrodictive. I've used the words "it hindcasts rather than forecasts," but "retrodictive" is okay.
YL: That has become the chosen term - I once read that the guy who introduced it to sports ratings used it because he couldn't come up with a better term at the moment. Perhaps "evencast" might be more descriptive since retrodictive isn't an antonym for predictive? Or we could forget about it altogether.
When and why did you begin to rate teams?
Wes: When and why:
When: 1998, the first year of the BCS.
Why: a very strong interest in college football... In 1998 when the BCS came around, I thought most of the computer rankings were unnecessarily complicated and clouded in mystery, so I decided to create a simple, open system, which people could understand and check. I particularly wanted one with no conference weighting factors, or pre-season information. I'm delighted that some people have gone to the trouble of checking my system and verifying its results.
YL: Mine is also a very simple system but is clouded in mystery. Perhaps someday I will reveal the secret recipe as you have - when I have perfected it (that's a joke).
What is the future of computer ratings and the BCS?
Wes: Good question. I basically have no idea. Every year there seems to be some misplaced pre-bowl outrage, then some hindsight post-bowl outrage, frequently mutually exclusive to the former, but at the end of the day, agreement that the correct national champion was crowned. As long as that's the case, I doubt the BCS will go away.
YL: Do you have favorite teams or sports?
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