Time To Share Some Data

2 Jan 1995: Members of the Penn State Nittany Lions take the field during the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. This image seemed appropriate for some reason, or at least better than my second choice. (Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport)

One of the reasons I thought it would be interesting to start Football Study Hall, in addition to the work I was already doing at Football Outsiders, is because I firmly believe that there is no better place to build a community than SBN. And in building a community within the SBN confines, I could also attempt to start a bit of a data-sharing co-op.

The simple fact is, college football data is hard to come by. That's what has made CFB Stats such a revelatory experience over the years. You can find professional baseball data back into the 1800s, and NFL and NBA data well back into the 1960s, but Marty's work in making sure we have full data just from 2004 was such an incredibly welcome experience. But let's take it a bit further back.

Think of all the pieces of college football data you cannot easily access. Complete play-by-play data from before the middle portion of the last decade is nearly impossible to compile. For per-game stats before 2004, you basically have to go to a school's official website; for stats before about 1998 ... good luck. Sports Reference has done a solid job in pulling together a decent amount of individual player data, but it is still sparse. And ... scheme data? Figuring out who was running a 3-4 defense in 2002? Who was running the wishbone in the early-1990s? Forget about it.

So it's time to get started. I have uploaded two documents for your perusal/enjoyment/use in writing your own posts. The documents give you historical S&P+ rankings for offense and defense. (For overall S&P+, go here.)

Offensive S&P+ Data (2005-10)

Defensive S&P+ Data (2005-10)

Now let's get some more. I'll soon be posting other things like F/+ history, pace, run-pass ratios, etc., but basically everything I have to provide is from my own database and from the 2005-10 range. I'll need your help to get more. So in the coming days/weeks, I'll be creating a series of editable documents for the following:

  • Links to old play-by-plays. This will be a list of games from probably the 1998-2004 range. I want help in figuring out which games can be accounted for on teams' official sites (and, in the absence of official site data, ESPN.com's no-tackles-data box scores will suffice.)
  • Game Stats. We will probably not be able to come up with complete play-by-play data for any year in the 1998-2004 range, but we probably can at least come up with box score data for them. So this file will be a list of games with a spot for the basic stats: rushing and passing yards, first downs, sacks, turnovers, etc. This can be found if you, like I, have a complete back log of Phil Steele mags. I haven't had the time to enter things from those mags into spreadsheets, however, so the goal is to get some help with that.
  • Coaching Staffs. This will be a document listing every team going back for years/decades. There will be columns for head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, etc. If a coach has a Wikipedia bio, you can probably follow his career progression, but if you are wondering who was on Bob Stoops' 1999 staff and you aren't an OU fan who can immediately recite this, digging up this type of resource is difficult.
  • Schemes. This might meld into the Coaching Staffs document, honestly, but the idea is to record schemes and styles for previous teams, not just the staffs themselves. Obviously we can't go too far into detail here, but having data regarding Flexbone vs I-formation vs spread vs 3-4 vs 4-3 vs 4-2-5 would be wonderful, even if it is incomplete.
  • ?. I am very much open to suggestion as to what else to add.

I will also be figuring out the smoothest way for users to upload their own files and share them publicly. Interested in sharing data you've collected regarding the weight of defensive lines? Old recruiting data? Whatever? You can do that too.

I'm assuming that a lot of readers, both of this site and of SBN sites in general, would be interested in contributing to (at least a bit) and using these types of documents, and I hope to get a lot of assistance with it. If you're interested in such a thing, feel free to either leave a comment here or contact me at billconnelly1 at gmail.com. I get jealous of fans of other sports like baseball and pro basketball; they have access to decades (or, in baseball's case, over a century) of data, and we've got next to nothing for college football. It's time to do something about that.

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