A Football Legacy Is Reborn
For the Houlgate family, the Autumn season meant Saturday afternoons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, rooting for the USC Trojans. They also came prepared for another activity. Along with jackets, banners, picnic basket and other fare for enjoying the pomp and color of college football, they brought pencils and paper to work out their way of determining who the best teams were. This went on in the 1930s and 40s. In the 1950s, they actually brought their television set and antennae. They would plug it into an outlet near one of the ticket booths where they could watch other games taking place across the country.
While the action raged on the floor of the Coliseum, father and son, Deke and Deke Jr. scribbled out the scores of all the games and calculate the rankings using their own home-grown rating system, known as the Houlgate College Football Rating System. Deke Sr. and his wife Dottie spent the better part of 30 years compiling scores of College football games dating all the way back to 1869 when Princeton and Rutgers played the first ever football game. Their efforts resulted in a book called, "The College Football Thesaurus, 77 years on the American Gridiron." That book, published in 1945, was followed up with a second edition in 1954. In addition, the Houlgates applied their ranking system on NCAA teams and crown champions dating back to 1885. The recordings of these champions remain in the official NCAA archives to this day.
A Google search on Houlgate Football Rankings shows links pointing to major College Athletic department websites, newspapers, football fan sites and the NCAA's official site. In its day the Houlgate Ranking System served among a plethora of polls and numeric rating systems, using various criteria. The Houlgate system was based on a very simple idea -- Your won-loss record, who you played and their won-loss record. Won-loss records yielded a letter grade. If you were undefeated, your got an "A" grade. If you lost once, you became a "B" team and so it goes. Your team would be awarded or demoted by a certain number of points, depending on your result against opponents, based on their won-loss record. If you beat a previously undefeated "A" team, that team became a "B" team and you earned 7 points. If you loss to that "A" team, they kept their "A" grade and you lost only one point. The Houlgate system rewarded teams who succeeded against other successful teams. That system was highly regarded and respected across the nation.
During those seminal years, what techies sometimes refer to the 'analog days', compiling and calculating the rankings took several hours to do. Today, with spreadsheets and database software easily available, the same calculations take a matter of minutes. In fact on a spreadsheet, you merely need to program the calculation functions and then it's just a matter of plugging in the scores. John Houlgate, of Santa Cruz, CA, grandson of Deke Sr. and son of Deke Jr. is doing just that. He plans to renew his grandfather's legacy as a gift of love for his family and the sport and provide a resource for college football fanatics and sports junkies, alike. With the Houlgate College Football Rankings we can see how a legacy ranking system would look at today's game and how it holds up in a tougher and faster moving world.
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