I’ve shared before on this blog that I’m a college sports fan and I’m particularly fond of college football. The most recent issue of Sport Illustrated had a story about crime in college football and the story reports that nearly 7 percent of players ranked on teams in the top 25 have a criminal record, almost 40 percent of which were “serious incidents”. The article goes on to state that of the 7 percent with a criminal record, “nearly 60 percent were guilty or paid some penalty”. The conclusion of the story is that coaches take players to “win at any cost”.
I took statistics in college both in undergrad and grad school and I hated it both times. I don’t remember half of what I learned and I don’t care to refresh my memory but I do remember one of my statistics professors saying “when you see a statistic, be skeptical, people can make statistics say whatever they want and you should always question the process”.
I did a little research and I can honestly say you should in no way feel that your safety is in jeopardy the next time you’re caught in a dark alley with a bunch of college football players.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. If 60 percent of the 7 percent of college football players with a criminal background were found to be guilty then the real number of college football players on ranked teams with a criminal conviction is around 4 percent (it is America and we are still innocent until proven guilty so a conviction matters – just ask O.J.).
I found on the internet (so it’s got to be true) the number of average college students with a criminal record is 3.45%. Craig’s Statistical Conclusion #1: The typical college football player on a team ranked in the top 25 is one-half of one percent more likely to have a criminal conviction than the average college student.
The SI story only looked at players with a criminal record in 2010. It’s possible that 2010 could have been a high crime or low crime year in college football so the results could be skewed one way of the other. The statistics I found on the average college student were collected over a number of years and from a much larger sample size so they’re probably a little more reliable.
Another statistic I found when doing my investigative work on the (always reliable and always truthful) internet – about 6.6 percent of the entire population will serve prison time at some point in their life and the number jumps to almost 10 percent if you look strictly at males (I actually feel fairly good about this statistic because it is based on 2000 Census Data). I’m fairly certain every player on a football team in the top 25 is male. To shoot even more holes in the SI article, I found on the FBI website that around 4.4 percent of the general population was arrested for some sort of crime in 2009.
Craig’s Statistical Conclusion #2: Given that 3.45% of all college students, both male and female, have a criminal record and 4.4% of the general population, both male and female, were arrested for a crime in 2009 and 10% of US males have a criminal record – obviously males bring up the average in the general population when it comes to criminal history. College football programs in the top 25 must be recruiting high character, high quality young men because, given that the team is all male, statistics tell us well more than 4 percent should have a criminal history!
If college coaches want to win maybe they shouldn’t be recruiting so many choir boys! I wish I could remember that college professors name who told me that you can get statistics to say anything. I’d like to call him and tell him I just did.