College Coaches Running up the Score: Responding to Incentives
From Pat Forde at ESPN:
Many will damn Stoops for doing this, arguing (reasonably) that he shouldn’t have his starting offense on the field late in the 4th quarter of a blowout game, as in the Big XII championship game against Mizzou. But that blowout allowed the Sooners to hurdle the only team to beat them this year – Texas – in the BCS standings, putting the Sooners into the “championship” game against the Florida Gators. Speaking of the Gators:
…Florida did not turn off the USA Today coaches’ or AP poll voters with that field goal. The Gators gained points in both polls following that victory.
Not only that, but coaches get bonus pay for reaching the BCS, getting into the title game, and winning the championship (from a Nov. 2006 USA Today article).
•At 83 schools, more than $23 million in on-field performance bonuses are at stake as coaches and their teams approach the 2006 postseason. Florida’s Urban Meyer will pocket $37,500 for getting the Gators to next month’s Southeastern Conference title game; he will effectively get another $137,500 if the Gators win it and qualify for a Bowl Championship Series game, $50,000 more if they get to the BCS national title game and an additional $100,000 more if they win that.
The current BCS formula is a combination of 6 computer rankings, the Harris Interactive poll (a poll of former coaches, players, and administrators, and current and former members of the media), and the USA Today coaches’ poll. When humans pick who is best, they naturally look at margin of victory to partially provide that information. This is, IMHO, especially true of coaches who spend most of their time preparing for their next game. They simply don’t have the time to closely follow how particular games unfold.
I certainly can admire coaches that don’t run up the score on purpose, but it’s hard to damn them when they do. They’re just responding to the incentives that they face.
Cross-posted at The Sports Economist