Cooking the stats is a recipe for failure, not victory

I eat, breathe and sleep numbers.

When I was a child, I’d wake up, grab the newspaper and immediately turn to the sports section (shocker). The next stop: the stock page to record and chart prices.

The scoreboard pages, loaded with statistics, schedules and standings, were my domain. I didn’t just study them, I lived them.

Stats don’t lie.

Well …

This week, the Ouachita Citizen uncovered a local version of Statgate. The gaudy 2021 season numbers of former Calvary football quarterback Landry Lyddy, the state’s reigning Mr. Football and Gatorade Player of the Year, were exposed as inflated.

The original number of passing yards submitted by Calvary of more than 4,200 were reduced to over 3,300. The story also said Lyddy’s 53 touchdowns were really 40, but that was wrong. The 53 TDs were correct.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way.

Fudging the numbers doesn’t change a single thing about Landry Lyddy the quarterback or the person. In fact, those stats are now irrelevant. Louisiana Tech has a heck of a talent with an impeccable work ethic. The Bulldogs have a great young man, too.

As a member of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, I was honored to present Lyddy with the 2021 Mr. Football award at Calvary’s graduation day awards ceremony. I’d introduce Lyddy again tomorrow, whatever the event, whatever the honor. He’s always been gracious with his time. He’s humble, respectful and carries himself like a champion.   

However, submitted statistics frame major awards like Mr. Football and the Gatorade Player of the Year. Voters, many of whom have never seen the players in person, are often armed with nothing more than stats and the local media representative’s campaign when it comes down to casting a ballot.

Lyddy probably would have collected the same number of postseason awards with his real stats, but the inflated version likely helped voters view him as a no-brainer.

If the touchdowns truly had been marked up by 13 I would have no problem with stripping Lyddy of the honors. It wouldn’t hurt him. He’s got his scholarship, he’s been at Tech for months and his career is ahead of him. Any resulting success will be determined by what happens moving forward, not by prior awards.

The rise in yards is egregious and harmful, but this ordeal isn’t unique to Calvary or to football. It’s fortunate the two people this affects the most, Lyddy and Calvary head coach Rodney Guin, didn’t have a hand in the farce.

Guin, who immediately reviewed the numbers when questions were raised, took full blame even though he had nothing to do with the recording or distribution of stats. He could have thrown the offending party under the bus, but simply leveraged his first-class reputation from 40 years of coaching.

It wasn’t in Guin’s DNA to expose the offender. This situation adds, not subtracts from his legacy.

The LSWA has already said Lyddy is and will remain their Mr. Football. I bet the Gatorade folks (if this even hits their radar) will have the same approach.

This sets a dangerous precedent.

What will deter someone from cooking the books? Where’s the breaking point for taking action? Two-thousand fake yards? Twenty touchdowns that didn’t exist? One-hundred bogus rebounds?

Situations like this will fuel the doubters, especially when a player actually compiles video-game stats (like Lyddy’s real numbers were). That’s certainly not fair.

The media has a role in this, too. We need to continue to be gatekeepers and can flush out such atrocities. We’ve done it before and will do it again.

The awful tradition of padding stats needs to cease – at every level, in every sport. Your players, your sons and your daughters will be OK with their real statistics next to their names. In fact, they should own them – good or bad.

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