Mullen to econ students: stats relate to everything

As students in an 8 a.m. principles of macroeconomics course prepared last Friday for a lesson on statistics, head football coach Dan Mullen came in the room and surprised everyone.

Instead of the regular instructor, Mullen would be giving a guest lecture on the use of statistical data in collegiate football training and preparation. Specifically, his lesson dealt with statistical analyses of plays, formations, pass concepts, and most all of the game's other aspects.

"I wanted to make sure you see that statistics apply not to some aspects of life; statistics apply to every part of life," Mullen told the students. Being good at mathematics while a student growing up helped prepare him to become a football coach, he added.

"Football is a big, big math game," he said. "If you look, there's a lot of statistics in it and a lot of geometry in it."

Among other points he shared:

--At season's end, a statistical analysis of the team's performance can easily result in a 250-page report; and

--Typical scouting reports from a single game can include 40 pages of statistical data.

Mullen said analyzing data from opposing teams helps coaches and play callers anticipate how to position football players, based on their opponents' tendencies that can be identified by carefully examining the data.

"Statistically speaking, a team may throw to the right more than the left," he explained. "(In that case) we want our best defender on the right."

Economics professor Meghan Millea said Mullen's talk gave her students a great parallel in terms of using metrics to assess performance and make decisions.
She explained to her students that in, say, an analysis of the U.S. economy, it's not enough to say that we need to "do something."

"We have to know what options we have and what's the likelihood those options will work," Millea observed.

Sophomore Shelby Harthcock of Newton said Mullen's visit helped her better understand Millea's classroom lessons.

"It just really helped me with the statistics, and I see how football is a lot more complicated that we think," Harthcock said.

Allison Matthews | University Relations

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