David Rothman (statistician)

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David Rothman
Born(1935-08-09)August 9, 1935
Bronx, New York, United States
DiedJune 12, 2004(2004-06-12) (aged 68)[1]
Hawthorne, California, United States
Occupation(s)Statistician, Public Policy

David Rothman (August 9, 1935 – June 12, 2004) was an American statistician, public policy advisor, and the creator of a computerized college football ranking system.

Rothman was the founder and executive director of the Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments (FACT), an organization and computer ranking used to select college football national champions.

The NCAA recognizes Rothman (FACT) as a "major selector" of college football national championships for the years 1968–2006. The Bowl Championship Series, for the 1999–2001 college football seasons, used FACT as one of the computer polls used to select participants for the BCS National Championship Game.

Education and career[edit]

Rothman graduated from the University of Wisconsin.[2]

Rothman spent many years working as a private-sector aerospace statistician for companies like Lockheed Corporation, Agbabian Associates, and Rocketdyne. Through Rocketdyne, he was part of the enormous scientific technical talent pool utilized by NASA to achieve the Apollo program Moon landing. Through Agbabian Associates, he was part of the scientific technical talent pool utilized by NASA to analyze the mechanical structure used in the space shuttle reloading facility called the Vehicle Assembly Building.

College football rankings[edit]

According to Rothman, he first began ranking college football teams in 1963 using a precursory computer ranking formula.[3] In the spring of 1970 or 1971 he developed the current ranking method used for FACT.

Rothman and his college football computer ranking system were discussed in a February 1968 issue of Time magazine.[4]

In 1991 Sports Illustrated covered the bottom 10 teams on his list.[5][6] At the time, the 0–6 Dr. Martin Luther College Lancers were ranked last out of 677 college football teams.

Rothman appeared on television once, and presented once as a keynote speaker of a statistical conference in New York City.[citation needed]

Rothman would eventually conduct his college football rankings as the executive director of the Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments (FACT), an organization he founded.

Bowl Championship Series[edit]

David Rothman's ranking system was a computerized mathematical ranking system fully developed by himself. It was unbiased and gained notice and popularity from Bowl Championship Series (BCS) administrators,[7] his peers and the public. His system has the advantage that it was readily available to anyone who asked to use it, and it was nonproprietary.

Rothman would have liked his system to have been widely used in tournaments in college sports such as basketball and football, where standings of teams were available and coaches and schools could reproduce rankings quickly. This system only used the margin of the score and the name of the team to arrive at a ranking. He believed that the BCS organization could rely on his system because it was adequate and sufficient, and convinced them to use his system as one of the computer ranking systems used in determining their championship game participants.

In 2002, when the revised BCS rules required all participating computer rankings to remove any weighting toward margin of victory, Rothman opted to drop out of the BCS, rather than make the necessary changes in his system.[8] Rothman's system by design was indirectly incorporating margin of victory. Rothman believed that it was evident that the success and validity of his system, which performed on a predictive basis, arose because he used the margin of victory as a factor.

FACT National Champions[edit]

The Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments selected the following NCAA Division I college football national champions.[9] The NCAA has designated FACT as one of its “major selectors” of national championship teams for the seasons of 1968 through 2006.[10]: 112–114 

Season Champion(s) Record Coach
1968 Ohio State 10–0 Woody Hayes
1969 Penn State 11–0 Joe Paterno
Texas 11–0 Darrell Royal
1970 Nebraska 11–0–1 Bob Devaney
Notre Dame 10–1 Ara Parseghian
Texas 10–1 Darrell Royal
1971 Nebraska 13–0 Bob Devaney
1972 USC 12–0 John McKay
1973 Ohio State 10–0–1 Woody Hayes
1974 Oklahoma 11–0 Barry Switzer
1975 Ohio State 11–1 Woody Hayes
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer
1976 Pittsburgh 12–0 Johnny Majors
1977 Arkansas 11–1 Lou Holtz
Notre Dame 11–1 Dan Devine
Texas 11–1 Fred Akers
1978 Alabama 11–1 Bear Bryant
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer
USC 12–1 John Robinson
1979 Alabama 12–0 Bear Bryant
1980 Florida State 10–2 Bobby Bowden
Georgia 12–0 Vince Dooley
Nebraska 10–2 Tom Osborne
Pittsburgh 11–1 Jackie Sherrill
1981 Clemson 12–0 Danny Ford
1982 Penn State 11–1 Joe Paterno
1983 Auburn 11–1 Pat Dye
Nebraska 12–1 Tom Osborne
1984 Florida 9–1–1 Galen Hall
1985 Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer
1986 Miami 11–1 Jimmy Johnson
Penn State 12–0 Joe Paterno
1987 Miami 12–0 Jimmy Johnson
1988 Notre Dame 12–0 Lou Holtz
1989 Miami 11–1 Dennis Erickson
Notre Dame 12–1 Lou Holtz
1990 Colorado 11–1–1 Bill McCartney
Georgia Tech 11–0–1 Bobby Ross
Miami 10–2 Dennis Erickson
Washington 10–2 Don James
1991 Washington 12–0 Don James
1992 Alabama 13–0 Gene Stallings
1993 Florida State 12–1 Bobby Bowden
1994 Nebraska 13–0 Tom Osborne
Penn State 12–0 Joe Paterno
1995 Nebraska 12–0 Tom Osborne
1996 Florida 12–1 Steve Spurrier
1997 Nebraska 13–0 Tom Osborne
1998 Tennessee 13–0 Phillip Fulmer
1999BCS Florida State 12–0 Bobby Bowden
2000BCS Oklahoma 13–0 Bob Stoops
2001BCS Miami 12–0 Larry Coker
2002 Ohio State 14–0 Jim Tressel
2003 LSU 13–1 Nick Saban
2004[11] USC[12] 11–0[13] Pete Carroll
2005[14] Texas 13–0 Mack Brown
2006[15] Florida 13–1 Urban Meyer
Ohio State 12–1 Jim Tressel

BCS Years in which FACT was incorporated into the Bowl Championship Series computer rankings.


  1. ^ "David Rothman Obituary (2004) Los Angeles Times". Legacy.com. Retrieved 1 June 2022. Rothman, David of Hawthorne. Beloved father died June 12, 2004. Service at Affordable Burial Cremation Service Thurs., July 1, 4 pm
  2. ^ Dufresne, Chris (October 18, 2001). "Now Seen ... but Not Nerd". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 11, 2022. A look at the men behind the BCS computers: David Rothman | Background check: Retired statistician, University of Wisconsin graduate. Executive director of FACT, the Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments. Has been producing ratings since 1963. Third year in BCS. | Bias meter: Wisconsin ranks No. 35 in unofficial BCS standings, No. 39 in Rothman's standings. | Quoting Rothman: "Last time I went to a game? I recall a Wisconsin Rose Bowl in the 1960s. I don't know. But I do watch. But it's not like Constitutional reform, that's where I really have something to offer."
  3. ^ Rothman, David. "FACT College Football Standings". Retrieved July 13, 2022. The above system meets all the required conditions from October to the end of the season, except for championships. Any team within 1.8 points of the leader automatically shares in a cochampionship, and other teams within 3.0 points of the leader share at my discretion. Championships have been awarded on this basis by the Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments since the 1970s, and retroactive to 1968.
  4. ^ "Football: No. 1 & No. 98". Time. Vol. 91, no. 6. February 9, 1968. Retrieved July 11, 2022. David Rothman is a systems analyst and college football buff from Canoga Park, Calif. By programming a computer to analyze "RRE values," "Newton-Raphson approximations" and "hypothetical win fractions," Rothman figured to find out which team ranked first. He did. He discovered what everyone knew already—that last season's leader was the University of Southern California. Last week other fans had another question for Rothman's computer: Where did it rank the Jackson State Tigers of Jackson, Miss.? The answer was: No. 98, under the general classification: "Other Teams."
  5. ^ "Scorecard — Making a List". Sports Illustrated. November 11, 1991. p. 68. Retrieved July 11, 2022. David Rothman, a semiretired aerospace statistician in Hawthorne, Calif., has devised the most thorough college football ranking system we've ever heard of. What Rothman does is statistically pit all 677 college teams against every other team every weck. Rothman determines who wins each imaginary game in this gigantic round-robin, using not only a school's actual results but also the strength of its schedule. Here, with the schools' real records, are the bottom 10 teams on Rothman's list after last week.
  6. ^ Reusse, Patrick (October 5, 2018). "Another Martin Luther football mystery solved: Once rated No. 677 (among 677)". The Star Tribune. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  7. ^ Bohls, Kirk (November 29, 1999). "BCS cyber-rankers live by their own codes". The Standard-Times. Cox News Service. Retrieved July 11, 2022. Rothman was particularly surprised to be picked because he had written a piece that criticized the BCS and even opened with the words "what a load of crap." | Rothman started working out the bugs in his own system as far back as the early 1970s. | In Rothman's rankings, his system is so pure and devoid of influence by previous history that it's as if "689 college football teams (from all divisions) arrived from Mars on Aug. 25." Perhaps that's why his early No. 2 ranking of Marshall brought a lot of flak. | Trust us, you don't want to get into an argument with the 64-year-old Rothman. He almost has to be begged to reveal an IQ that's higher than 160. He's a former top-flight bridge player, started college in Wisconsin at age 16 and attended a national defense seminar at Harvard led by Henry Kissinger. Think he's into numbers? He logged in this phone call at 855 Thursday morning and at the conclusion of the conversation informed the reporter the interview was one minute shy of an hour. Of course, when you're dealing with an educated man who worked on a team that designed the Orbiter lifting frame that places the space shuttle atop airplanes for transportation, even computer football is rocket science.
  8. ^ Sandomir, Richard (June 26, 2002). "College Football; Margin of Victory Falls in Bowl Rating". New York Times. Retrieved July 11, 2022. Yesterday, the B.C.S. made its annual tweaking, with Tranghese announcing the elimination of the margin of victory as a component in the computer rankings that make up a portion of the B.C.S. calculation. Last year, four of the eight computer rankings included margin of victory. ... The B.C.S. dropped two computer rankings that refused to drop margin of victory (the Herman Matthews/Scripps Howard ranking and David Rothman's)
  9. ^ "FOUR DECADES OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS". University of Wisconsin-Madison Computer-Aided Engineering. Archived from the original on 16 September 2019. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  10. ^ 2020 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records (PDF). Indianapolis: The National Collegiate Athletic Association. July 2020. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  11. ^ Massey, Kenneth, ed. (1 March 2005). "College Football Ranking Comparison". Archived from the original on 8 April 2005. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  12. ^ The FWAA stripped USC of its 2004 Grantland Rice Trophy and vacated the selection of its national champion for 2004. The BCS also vacated USC's participation in the 2005 Orange Bowl and vacated USC's 2004 BCS National Championship and the AFCA Coaches' Poll Trophy was returned.ref1, ref2 Archived 2015-04-26 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Record reflects vacated wins against UCLA and against Oklahoma in the BCS Championship game on January 4, 2005 as mandated by the NCAA Archived December 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "FINAL 2005-6 MEN'S COLLEGE FOOTBALL STANDINGS". Archived from the original on 26 April 2006. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  15. ^ "FINAL MEN'S COLLEGE FOOTBALL STANDINGS". Archived from the original on 18 February 2007. Retrieved 2021-12-10.

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