MARTINEZ: Score Czar rises to power in the numbers game
Tim Martinez: High School Sports
Monday, September 24, 2012
Anyone who has ever voted in the state high school football rankings will tell you those polls are not an exact science.
But Scott Odiorne of Vancouver is not just anyone.
Odiorne, a.k.a. the Score Czar, has turned his passion for high school football and his knowledge of spreadsheets and data analysis into a computerized state ranking that is gaining attention across the state — and even farther.
Odiorne’s story began in 2007 when he started attending football games for Union High School, where his oldest daughter was a student.
As the Titans began to have success, Odiorne wanted to see how Union matched up with other teams across the state.
So he decided to use the spreadsheets that he used in his work everyday to help gain a clearer picture.
“I started to track scores of teams, their points for, points against,” Odiorne said. “Then I just started tinkering with the numbers, seeing what would happen if I divided this by this. Just seeing what the numbers told me.”
The end result was a ranking that Odiorne felt pretty good about.
“At first, it was just something to do for fun,” he said. “But as I developed my rankings, I just wanted to share this with someone.”
Enter Doug Pacey, the former prep reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune. Pacey wrote a piece in which he suggested Washington develop a power rating system — similar to the one used in Oregon — by which teams would be seeded into the football state playoffs.
Odiorne thought he had that system. So he shared his computer rankings with Pacey.
Pacey was impressed enough with the rankings to grant Odiorne a weekly spot in the TNT’s preps blog.
The next step, Pacey suggested, was for Odiorne to put his rankings on the web.
He did that last football season, promoting the site through the Twitter handle
@ScoreCzar. You find the site at https://sites.google.com/a/scoreczar.com/scoreczar/home.
So where did this name “Score Czar” come from? Well, it started when Odiorne was talking with Pacey about how difficult it is to track down some scores.
“I asked Doug, ‘Aren’t these teams required to report their scores to someone?’ and Doug just snickered,” Odiorne said.
Ah yes. Those of us in the sports media are familiar with that snicker.
“So then Doug said that if I wanted all those scores reported that I would have to make sure they got reported,” Odiorne said. “He said: ‘You can be the czar of scores.’ ”
And thus, a czar was born. But once the Score Czar tried to stake his place in the sports media hierarchy, the detractors showed up. Czars are often the target of protests.
But Odiorne countered those protests with successes.
Two years ago, his rankings had Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma as one of the top teams in the state, long before the Lions showed up in other state rankings. Bellarmine Prep reached the 4A state semifinals.
Last year, it was Woodinville, another eventual state semifinalist, that the Score Czar touted long before the human voters did.
During the playoffs last season, Odiorne used his computer rankings to predict winners. During the state preliminary round, the Score Czar picked 21 of 22 winners.
“It’s taken me a good three years to tinker with this to the point where it’s reporting well,” Odiorne said. “Like the system or not, it produces a product, and it’s been good.”
Odiorne admits his system isn’t foolproof, particularly early in the season when early results can skew the rankings.
For example, Hockinson came in at No. 4 on last week’s Class 2A rankings, aided by two lopsided wins over 3A teams — Hudson’s Bay and Fort Vancouver.
“It’s like any kind of statistical analysis,” Odiorne said. “The more data you have, the better the end result will be.”
In other words, the rankings will be more meaningful in Week 9 than Week 3.
Odiorne has expanded his rankings to include Oregon and Idaho high school football, not to mention college football, NFL and Major League Baseball.
And that means a lot scores to enter into spreadsheets.
“It’s a real time draw,” Odiorne said. “This has impacted my life, and not always in a positive way. I often find myself working on this when I should be doing other things. But it’s almost an addiction. I can’t go 95 percent. I’ve got to go the whole way for this to be meaningful ... And that doesn’t always agree with my life.”
Odiorne has dreams of turning this passion into a money-making endeavor.
But for now, it’s simply a labor of love.
“It’s accurate enough to get me excited about the possibilities,” Odiorne said. “Sometimes I think about packing this up and moving to Vegas. I would just live in the street. All I would need is my computer and a Wi-Fi connection.”
Hmm, I wonder what the numbers would say about that idea?
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.