On the last page of the recently (July 2016) published NCAA Division I Principles is this:
31.9 National Statistics Program.
A national statistics program shall be maintained for active member institutions in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, and men’s and women’s volleyball. The Council shall oversee the statistics program and approve its policies and procedures. The national statistics program policies and procedures shall be published on the NCAA website. (Revised: 4/14/06, 11/1/07 effective 8/1/08, 10/30/08, 8/7/14)
Wrestling isn't part of the plan and, indeed, it's been seven years since the NCAA added a sport to its statistics program (Men's Volleyball, 2009) according to the NCAA Statistics Policies and Guidelines on the NCAA Statistics Website.
None of this is surprising as statistics does not appear as a strategic focus in NCAA publications nor is there a committee (of the existing 40+) examining the role of statistics in NCAA sports. Indeed, the NCAA is very consistent on this topic: statistics aren't important to their mission and their investment is commensurate with this fact. Good organizations "walk the talk" and the NCAA's is doing just that with respect to stats.
Is the NCAA's decision not to fund statistics a good one? Who knows -- the NCAA has a lot on their plate and there are certainly more important student-athlete issues such as safety, health and academic achievement.
For college wrestling the message is clear: the NCAA will be of no help with respect to statistics. Any progress on this front will need to come organically, driven by our collegiate wrestling leadership.
Yet, especially in college, the process for gathering wrestling stats is abysmally antiquated. Many or perhaps most college programs continue to score their dual meets on paper. Sure, all programs upload match outcomes to the web because of an NCAA mandate, but typically the underlying scoring data is not uploaded. As one NCAA coach lamented, it is impossible to determine, for example, the NCAA Division I takedown leader. That is a sad state of affairs for our sport.
Why are college head coaches so disinterested in performance statistics? Impossible to say for certain, but a few candidates:
- Lack of understanding ("how do we do it?" and "how do we use it?")
- Bad assumptions ("the solution doesn't exist")
- Pride ("I don't understand technology and I'm proud of it.")
- Aversity to change ("we've always done it this way")
- Historical imperative ("the oldest sport with the oldest methods")
- Lack of leadership ("who's telling us to do this?")
- Misguided leadership (NWCA and the proprietary and closed OPC partnership with NBC, nee Trackwrestling)
- Plain old laziness
I believe #1 is the dominant reason though I've encountered all the others in both college and high school.
To be sure, there are positive initiatives in the domain of wrestling statistics as evidenced by our recent partnership with FloWrestling to integrate Takedown with their tournament management platform, FloArena. Indeed, the product options for digitally gathering wrestling statistics has never been so rich and the investment level is increasing.
I hope college coaches will stop and reconsider their critical role regarding wrestling statistics. Progress will depend on college coaches making decisions and taking action for the betterment of their team and, importantly, the sport at large. This is leadership. Don't wait for the NCAA -- that train isn't stopping at this station.