Thank you Ray Gustini, you beat me to it.

That is a scatterplot of data used in SI’s much talked-about six-month investigation into crime and college athletics. It plots the number of players with criminal history’s (Y axis) against their team’s preseason ranking (X axis). Looks rather uncorrelated doesn’t it? Perhaps a little scattered, even for a scatter plot? That’s because it is. It’s about as tightly correlated as the “positive” relationship between public employee unions and state budget deficits, to give one example.

The take-away?

Firstly, SI’s report does not lend validity to the “pervasive assumption” that college head coaches are “willing to recruit players with questionable pasts to win.” If, in fact, some head coaches are all ginned-up to go out and recruit career criminals, then those coaches would be indulging in a dumb strategy  that tends to reflect poorly on the program and would have a negligible (if not a negative) impact on the team’s on-field performance. On the other hand, if there’s one thing that SI’s investigation does prove it’s that college kids are indeed dumb, and do tend to go out and get alcohol consumption-related citations on a fairly regular basis.

Secondly, this, presented without comment:

“The win-at-all costs coach is a convenient–even intuitive–straw man, but will a coach really bring in a player he thinks will cause trouble? On the recruiting trail, nobody seeks out a wide receiver who will some day beat up his girlfriend in public. One wonders if there are some confounding variables here, driving both the emphasis on athletics and the citations. So we took a very unscientific look at the Greek system, and whether it’s having an effect. It turns out 10 percent of Pitt’s student body is part of the Greek system. At Iowa, Penn State, and Arkansas the percentages appear to be 11, 12, and 21, respectively. However, commuter school Boise State, ranked fourth for most player citations, is only two percent Greek…So we remain unsatisfied. Maybe it’s the quality of the comparative literature departments.”

Okay maybe one comment: Ha.

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