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10 Years of the Whitson Rankings HISTORY

The Whitson Rankings began in 1990 when I started at the University of Tennessee. At that time the rankings were computed using a Commodore 16 with a cassette drive. I could save the program to the drive but I didn't know how to save data so I had to enter all the information in over and over again every week. The formula at that time was made up almost entirely of the win-loss records. I didn't have a printer either so every week I would have to transcribe the scores from the computer screen to a notepad. These rankings lasted for two seasons until I lost the Commodore power cord!

In 1993, a friend of mine got a hold of a Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer 2 and the rankings were reborn. Luckily for me, I figured out how to save the data onto the 5 1/2" disks and had a printer available. The formula evolved into a more complex and better indicator, taking into account win-loss records, opponents, and a not-very-well-figured strength of schedule. This incarnation of the rankings lasted two years until I got married and moved to North Carolina and was once again computer-less.

In 1995, I got a Power Macintosh 6100. In 1997, I moved back to Knoxville and tried to continue the rankings. I have no experience in programming in anything other than old 1980's BASIC so at first I tried using a spreadsheet, but didn't have much luck. Then I tried a BASIC emulator called Chipmunk BASIC. No luck there either. I tried again in 1998 and while I had more success, I still wasn't happy with it.

In 1999, before I once again moved back to North Carolina, my friend gave me the old Tandy TRS-80. I still had the old floppy so I fired up the thing up. I had to update the teams adding some (like Marshall) and getting rid of some (like Pacific). I also did an upgrade of the formula, making it much more accurate; it now takes into account win-loss records, point margin, game expectations, and a much improved strength of schedule. Later in the the season, I switched the program to a TRS-80 Color Computer emulator on the Mac.

Before the 2000 season, I went to work determined to find a better way to calculate the rankings. After experimenting with several different methods, I finally settled on an Excel spreadsheet. With a lot of effort I was finally able to set it up to my liking. While it's big and bulky, it's much easier to enter data in; basically just cutting and pasting the scores in each week.

In the few years The Whitson Rankings have been online, I've tried some interactive features to get fans involved. In 1999, I held a "Virtual Play-offs". The top 16 teams in the final regular season edition of the rankings were put against each other. Each week, fans would email who thay predicted would win a match-up along with what the score would be. The computer would take these results and output the winner and the score. This continued for several weeks until we finally had a "virtual play-off" national champion.

In 2000, I created The Whitson Rankings "Fan Poll". Other organizations, like and CBS Sportsline, have fan polls where visitors can vote on a top 25 list. This poll was different; it was run more like the AP and Coaches Poll. Since the poll used the same fans every week, it was more stable and meaningful than other fan polls that depend on random visitors to a web site. While most of the participants were great and made the poll fun to do, unfortuantely, as the season wore on, a few of the fan pollsters became unreliable. It would take several prodding emails to get them to send their polls in. Sometimes the weekly poll would be over a week late! I decided not to continue the Fan Poll in 2001.

Coming soon: unfortunately, I lost or didn't keep a lot of the old rankings, so now I'm going back with the current formula and calculating the national champion for every year since the Whitson Rankings started. These will be posted as they are finished.


created and maintained by James R Whitson <>

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© 1990-2002 James R Whitson