It doesn’t take long while reminiscing about the great days of Wake Forest sports for the Deacs’ Orange Bowl appearance to work its way into the conversation. In fact, it only took about 45 seconds last week when a few fellow Deacs and I sat down for lunch on a hot Charlotte afternoon at a local Chipotle. Shortly after ordering a trio of burrito bowls, a Wake-inspired argument quickly arose as a friend of mine confidently stated, “That Orange Bowl year was a great year for Demon Deacon sports, but the real peak of the decade didn’t come until a few years later.” The reply? “No chance. 2006-2007 was the top year of this century and it’s not even close.”
Immediately it hit me: Is there a way to legitimately compare Wake Forest sports years using statistics, formulas, and some unique data collecting? If there’s one thing I love, it’s our Deacs. And if there is a close 2nd, it’s analyzing stats about the Deacs and writing it all down. You don’t need to be a brain reader to see where this is going right?
The goal: Create a database that statistically calculates the aggregate success of each individual Wake Forest sports year based on factors that matter most to Demon Deacon fans.
This is Part One of a two part series that looks into the creation of the database and tries to quantify not only which seasons/teams were the strongest for each individual sport, but also which years were the most successful for Wake Forest sports overall. Part One will focus on comparing the sports from year to year, whereas Part Two will concentrate on determining which years in the past have yielded the most happiness for Deacon fans, what sports are most followed by the fanbase, and how the 2016 football team might stack up to the last decade overall.
Here we go.
I first selected the four sports that commonly receive the most interest year round by the Wake Forest community: Football, Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, and Baseball. How one defines the success of any given year for Wake Forest sports heavily revolves around these programs and thus I thought it was in the best interest of the article to focus mainly on them exclusively. More importantly, they are also the four sports that have the largest quantity of information (and quality of information) available on the internet, which brings me to my next step in the process: data collection.
I gathered statistics from these four sports to help summarize their seasons from 2006-2016 with factors that most impact the satisfaction levels of the Wake Forest fanbase. This ten year era was selected mainly due to the fact that a lot of information necessary for creating the desired database was not available in the early 2000’s for all four sports.
Of course, W-L records were extracted, but in addition to this basic stat were records vs. rivals, ACC rank, attendance, and recruiting ranking. I also looked up the number of Top 25 wins for a given year, the amount of players drafted per sport, and a few other categories I’ll get into later on in the article. Football and basketball had eight individual statistics gathered, while soccer and baseball had seven due to my lack of access to standardized recruiting rankings over the last decade.
Below are the said collected data tables for the last ten seasons of Wake Forest football, basketball, soccer, and baseball. Football will kick it off.
Big Three Points
- New Era: Despite not having been to a bowl since 2011, 4 out of the top 5 recruiting classes have actually come in the last half-decade. Clawson continues to get the job done in talent acquisition, but is this the year it all finally comes together?
- Glory Days: The all-time best draft year for the Deacs came in 2008-2009 with four selections including #4 overall Aaron Curry and #37 Alphonso Smith. The program-high four selections were matched only one other time in Wake history (2012).
- A Painful Drought: It’s been a tough four years for Wake against Top 25 opponents. Since its last victory over a ranked opponent (FSU 2011) the Deacs are 0-14 against Top 25 opponents and have been outscored 169-530
Big Three Points
- All Over the Map: Wake Forest basketball recruiting rankings have been one of the more sporadic in the ACC in the last ten years with a range of 86 spots. Of course, the low mark came in Danny Manning’s makeshift 2014 class that featured Dinos Mitoglou, Mitchell Wilbekin, Rondale Watson, and Cornelius Hudson (Two of which are no longer with the program).
This Really Happened?: While looking back on
Bzdelik“He who shall not be named” and his horrific tenure, it is easy to forget that the team actually had W’s against all NC opponents in his final year. That only occurred one other time in the last decade, in 2008-2009, when the team finished 2nd in the ACC.
- Future in the Association: Although the Deacs haven’t had anyone drafted since 2011, there’s a possibility that ends quite soon as John Collins and Bryant Crawford’s trajectories continue to have professional potential. The latter has appeared in multiple mock 1st rounds for the 2017 NBA Draft in the past year.
Big Three Points
- Soccer Royalty: I know we’ve been known as a dominant force in soccer for the last ten years, but I had forgotten just how good this team was at the start of the decade. The Deacs reached the College Cup four consecutive years in a row, won one national title, and sent 16 guys to the pros in that timespan. I might go roll the quad all over again just looking at that era.
- 2720: Spry Stadium’s single-season attendance record wasn’t just broken last season it was absolutely demolished by almost 500+ fans per game. Woah. I guess winning the ACC and having the #1 overall MLS draft pick on the squad (Jack Harrison) can do that.
- Untapped Talent: The 2013 team was one of the most talented and experienced in the last ten years for Wake soccer, and yet couldn’t really put all the pieces together to make something special happen. The Deacs failed to beat a rival for the first time all decade and were upset in the first round of the ACC tournament to UVA, yet sent six guys pro.
Big Three Points
- Bottom Half Baseball: It hasn’t been too joyful a ten years for Wake Forest baseball in the stacked ACC. The Deacs actually haven’t finished in the top half of the league once in the last decade; making it the only program of these four with that label.
- Kings of Carolina: Despite getting swept by NC State to start their 2016 rivalry slate, Tom Walter’s team closed on a 6-1 run against its local opponents to finish with a winning record against Duke, UNC, and NCSU. The last of the 6 was a vital 4-3 victory over Duke in the ACCT that likely earned the Deacs an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
- Cream of the Crop: Two of Wake Forest’s six MLB first round selections all-time have come since 2007: 3B Will Craig (2016) and 1B Allan Dykstra (2008). However, 2012 features arguably the two most successful draft picks of the decade in LHP Tim Cooney and RF Mac Williamson.
While that information might be interesting, the real point of the series wasn’t to glance at some aggregated data from Wikipedia and Sports Reference; the true purpose was to properly value each one of these categories that are vital to the fanbase’s perception of a program in a way that could be standardized and compared across sports and years. In other words, it’s time for the good stuff.
The total of each program’s statistical values for each year would eventually be added up to one final sum appropriately named the DEAC Score. The higher the DEAC Score, the better the year was overall for Wake Forest sports. In order to get this DEAC Score, however, we needed to establish how much each category was worth and what formulas would be used to calculate it.
There are two types of statistical groups I created when assigned individual point values to statistics: +/- Categories and Bonus Categories.
+/- Categories were those that could either be positive or negative depending on the season’s result. An example of this would be W-L record, where if you were above .500 you would receive a positive score, while a sub-par record would yield the opposite. These categories also were sometimes relative to other years. For example, an above average attendance season would have a positive effect on the fanbase and therefore be above 0, where as a below average attendance figure relative to past seasons would be negative.
Bonus Categories were those that could only positively contribute to the final DEAC Score that was calculated at the end. An example of this would be drafted players or Top 25 wins. A team can’t technically get a negative amount of these, but the more you have the happier the fanbase is, thus they need to be factored in.
Here are the individual values for each category and sport. (Note: If you simply want to see the results, scroll down to FINAL RESULTS.)
Assuming a lot of those numbers need justification, I’ll explain my logic behind each value.
- The differences in +/- for Record W-L per sport are due to the number of games each team plays per season. Basketball plays on average 2.65x more games per season, therefore every W or L doesn’t have as much of a relative impact on the final record and is worth about 38% as much. The weight of each individual game is thus weighted based on how much of a season it makes up.
- Rivalry games are very important to Wake Forest fans and are worth more than a regular win or loss. Sweep your rivals in a sport (Such as the Diamond Deacs did in UNC this season) and the fanbase really appreciates the success. Do poorly against your rivals, and it can start to wear on the fans over the course of a season.
Deacs sweep UNC!!!— Riley Johnston (@BSD_RaJohnston) April 24, 2016
- ACC Rank: This value is based on a scale of -2.5<->+2.5 depending on where the Deacs finish in the conference. However, it is also heavily weighted towards the extremes due to how fans view great success or great failure. The logic behind this is that the emotional difference between finishing 1st and 2nd is bigger than the difference between 6th and 7th and therefore the value gap between those two sets of numbers, though only 1 place in the standings apart, is dramatically different.
- Top 25 wins are one of those bonus categories I mentioned that can only help the final DEAC Score. Due to the fact that there are fewer opportunities for these W’s in football, they are weighted more.
- Bowl/Tourny is another bonus category that starts off at +1.5 for simply getting a bid. In football, that number rises to 3.0 for a Tier 2 Bowl (Ex: Alamo, Outback, etc) and 4.0 for a BCS bowl appearance (Pronounced “The Orange Bowl Effect”). In soccer, basketball, and baseball, it rises to 2.5 for an Sweet 16 run, 3.0 for an Elite Eight appearance, 4.0 for reaching the Final Four, 5.0 for a NCAA final appearance, and up to 6.0 for a National Championship (Cue 2007 Men’s Soccer racking up the points).
- Attendance and recruiting ranks are +/- categories, but only relative to the ten-year average of the program. It would be unfair to rank the Deacs’ attendance/recruiting against other ACC opponents because there are so many other factors that go into how many fans attend a game or how many blue chips commit to a team. It is thus based on the % difference from the decade-long average, which likely signifies how interested the Wake Forest fanbase was for that team in any given season. (Note: Football recruiting rankings are based on Rivals, whereas basketball recruiting rankings are based on 247sports.)
Proud to be apart of the highest recruiting class in Wake Forest history. Only the beginning.— T Cole (@T_Cole2211) February 3, 2016
- Finally, the Draft/Pro category is the final bonus section with unique values for each sport. The values are based on a combination of the overall difficulty to get drafted into the sport, the frequency with which it occurs, and also how the fanbase views an individual selection. Getting picked in the NBA draft is obviously a huge deal, hence the reason why it is valued at least 2x more than any other selection.
So now that we have established these values, it’s time to calculate the DEAC value for each sport each year. Starting with football, let’s have a look below at the results:
(Note: For reference, an average year for a sports team should fall in between 1.0 and 3.0 all things being equal. This is assuming equal values in +/- Categories and an average frequency of units in Bonus Categories)
No surprise here as the early years of the last decade ended up being more successful than the most recent ones. The incredible run to the Orange Bowl posted a DEAC Score of just under 11.5, with the only negative from that season stemming from an embarrassingly low ranked recruiting class. How you win the ACC and end up with a 2007 class ranked below Florida International is beyond me. Fortunately recruiting has been one of the strong points in the program over the last couple of years despite the Deacs struggling not only in the ACC, but against local rivals.
Now time for Men’s Basketball:
Hopefully you aren’t surprised the last year of Dino Gaudio was the last year the Deacs were in the positives for the DEAC score. A poor showing in Bonus Categories here really keeps the recent values low, as they did in WF Football, with no draftees or tournament appearances to speak of since 2011. Given the nature of the formula and its bonuses, it’s pretty hard to reach the -5 mark, and yet that’s exactly what happened in 2010-2011; Undoubtedly the worst sports season of these four programs in the last ten years. Danny Manning’s era, however, has been plagued by minimal bonus points from Top 25 wins and an average 1-4 record against NCSU, Duke, and UNC over two years.
Don’t worry good news is on the way. A look at Men’s Soccer’s DEAC Scores.
Four out of the five double-digit DEAC Scores of any sport came in Men’s Soccer from 2006-2009 under legendary coach Jay Vidovich. Even in the Futbol Deacs’ down years they still managed to achieve values in the +; a true testament to just how good this program has been. High finishes in the ACC Standings and a plethora of Top 25 Wins are what really add to the final values here, along with a few deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. And for those that like hypotheticals, if the #1 ranked 2015 team had actually won it all last December, they would have topped the 2007 title winning season by .72 in the DEAC Score system.
Baseball time? Baseball time.
Finishing in the bottom half of the ACC certainly doesn’t do its annual DEAC Score any favors, but a fair amount of Top 25 Wins over the years have kept the sum total reasonable. In addition to the ranked victories, a record attendance in 2016 along with four MLB draftees helped this past year to be the most successful since the start of 2007. Ultimately, things never got too high or too low for Wake baseball and the scores didn’t really stray too far from average.
That is all for Part One of the Decade of Demon Deacon Sports miniseries. Come back tomorrow for Part Two which will be released at the same exact time 10AM EST. Thanks for reading and Go Deacs!
For more Wake Forest sports statistics, you can follow me on Twitter @DeacFan3.