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The 2000 External Factors Index

Publication Date: October 10, 2000

The EFI's

This week I released the 2000 version of the External Factors Index, and I want to take a little time to discuss what the EFI's are and praise a few teams who deserve it.

As the introduction on the EFI page says, we all know that the playing field's not level. There are some schools which have advantages that have nothing really to do with the baseball program which still benefit the baseball team. Chief among these is the weather, but there are other things like the size of the enrollment to select players from or barriers to admission like cost or academic standards that can also play a part in determining how hard it is for the teams to succeed.

It turns out that a lot of these things are measurable, so I've done some research to find out just how big an effect they have. The EFI is the result of that -- it's just a boiled together (and weighted to maximize the correlation with the ISR's) number made up of about forty factors, including lots of monthly weather data, average tuition, enrollment, conference revenue, wins by the football and basketball teams (which contribute to baseball revenue fairly considerably, it turns out), and some academic factors like acceptance rates, average high school GPA, and SAT/ACT scores. None of these things have any relevance to the actual playing of the games, but do they benefit the program? The answer turns out to be that the effect is fairly considerable. For the statistically minded among you, the correlation between the EFI's and the ISR's for 1998-2000 is .82.

The prototypical high-EFI team is Miami, which is the school with the highest EFI. Their biggest advantage is the weather, which allows their players to work year-round with fewer hassles than most teams encounter. They also get a big boost from fairly successful football and basketball teams. Enrollment and conference revenue are neutral for them, while tuition and academic standards are a small negative (in a baseball sense, of course; higher-than-average academic standards are a good thing in an overall sense). This is not to detract from their success at all, of course; the #2 team on the list is UCLA, who has not had nearly the success that they probably should have.

The Overachievers

A look at some of the overachievers is in order, I think. I'm not a big fan of the "coaching is everything" school of thought in college ball, but there are some places that good programs have been built in difficult places, and the coaches do deserve a good bit of credit for that.

There's a top 20 program in Kansas, playing in the MVC. That's astounding. I still have some reservations about Wichita State's program, mostly dealing from the fallout from the Ben Christensen incident, but their on-field success is certainly praise-worthy. They've worked hard to build a national schedule and prove that they can compete at that level, and they certainly deserve to be proud.

I've gushed over Rice before here, but they're still worth noticing. Rather than packing it in when they went to the WAC rather than the Big 12, they've built a program that has reached the point where you wouldn't be surprised to see them win a national championship at some point in the next five years, and that's amazing.

I've had more than my share of negative things to say about Notre Dame over the years. To be honest, though, most of those things are reflections of displeasure with the NCAA, not with anything to do with the Irish. They have an awful lot going against them, most of it cold and wet, but they have managed to build a team that can compete; they're at #53 in the ISR's over the last three years, when the only EFI factor they really have going for them is the football team, and that hasn't been great the last few years, either.

Finally, take a look at Stony Brook. They're still below average, down at #181 in the ISR's, but by almost any measure they should have been really awful, and to climb up to the middle of the pack in their first real year in Division I -- they were 30-11 this year, after all -- is quite impressive. I don't know if they'll have the budget to make the schedule improvements it would take to climb on up, but they're worth watching based on the 2000 season.


As I was sure would happen when I wrote it last week, it turns out that Craig Gowens does not work for the SID's office at Texas. Craig works in External Services for the Athletic Department. The SID's office is part of External Services, but Craig does not work for them. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused and appreciate Craig's good-natured correction, as well as the work he's done gathering the all-time conference standings for the Web.

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