One of my favorite TV shows is PTI on ESPN with hosts Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. The basic premise of the show (for the non-sports fans who read this blog) is that these two sports writers have timed arguments on various current day sports topics. One of the regular segments that PTI does is called "oddsmakers." What happens is that Tony Reali posses questions and Wilbon and Kornheiser do their best to assign the probability of the event occurring. The question the other day was "what are the odds Sam Bradford wins another Heisman." Michael Wilbon walked us through his logic by saying that 73 people have won the Heisman and only 1 person repeated, so the odds of winning 2 Heismans are 1.35%. Now, I know this is a show more for entertainment than actual true analysis, but I was surprised that Wilbon (who I really like) would not only say that but would be praised by Reali for his analysis.
My thought is that if someone gave you 1.35% odds (74 to 1) of Bradford winning another Heisman you would take those odds. Just looking at the Heisman field next year there will be Bradford, Tebow and Colt McCoy competing again for the most prestigious individual award you can win in sports. So why is 1.35% way too low for Bradford?
The reason being is that the analysis should have started with the question "how many returning Heisman winners have their been?" I looked up the Heisman winners and out of the 74 times the Heisman was handed out, guess how many of them were seniors? The answer is 56 or 76% of all Heisman winners have been seniors. Now out of those 18 non-seniors who have won how many of them came back. From my research only *9 people came back to compete in a season after they won the Heisman.
*Those 9 people are Doc Blanchard, Doak Walker, Vic Janowicz, Archie Griffin, Billy Sims, Ty Detmer, Jason White, Matt Leinhart and Tim Tebow. It will be 10 next year with Sam Bradford.
Now that you know there are only 9 people to come back and defend their Heisman does that change your idea on the 1.35% chance? For better analysis lets see how those 9 players did the next year. Out of those 9 players here is how they finished in the Heisman voting the next year: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, *Not Voted. That isn't too bad and stands to reason that Sam Bradford has better than average odds to be in the Heisman discussion at the end of next year. If I were betting man I would bet he would finish 3rd, but if asked by PTI to give odds that he wins another Heisman I would probably have to start at a minimum of 11% (1/9). I would probably move that number up since Bradford might come back for another year after next year. Taking into account past history combined with a little guessing I would say the odds are 20%.
*Poor Vic Janowicz of Ohio St. didn't even get a vote in 1951 after winning the Heisman in 1950. It is hard to find out much about that year besides that 1951 was the first year for head coach Woody Hayes.