David Rothman (statistician)

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David Rothman
Born(1935-08-09)August 9, 1935
Bronx, New York, United States
Diedc. June 12, 2004(2004-06-12) (aged 68)
Hawthorne, California, United States
OccupationStatistician, Public Policy
Spouse(s)Yolanda Rothman (1938–2011) (m.1959–1966) (divorced) 2 children

David Rothman (August 9, 1935 – c. June 12, 2004) was an American statistician, public policy advisor, and Bowl Championship Series computer rankings author.

Early life and childhood[edit]

David Rothman was one of three children born and raised in Bronx, New York to Lena (1912–2004) and Morris Rothman (1908–1993). Morris Rothman was a furrier. In his youth David scored well in a national math contest. Piano composition was his hobby. David was pulled out of the Bronx High School of Science in his junior year on a full Ford Foundation Scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. David Rothman's IQ was off the charts and could not be measured, claimed family members who knew of the situation.[citation needed] He was a fantastic classical piano musician but did not wish to perform publicly, according to his mother Lena Rothman, as told to her niece Doris.[citation needed]


Rothman graduated from Bronx Science (later called Bronx High School of Science) in 1951. He continued on to University of Wisconsin–Madison, completing a B. S. degree in mathematics in 1955 followed by a master's degree. He then went on to Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration (later renamed John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University), completing a M. S. degree in public administration in 1959.


Rothman spent many years working as a private-sector aerospace statistician for companies like Lockheed Corporation, Agbabian Associates, and Rocketdyne. Through Rocketdyne, he was part of the enormous scientific technical talent pool utilized by NASA to achieve the Apollo program Moon landing. Through Agbabian Associates, he was part of the scientific technical talent pool utilized by NASA to analyze the mechanical structure used in the space shuttle reloading facility called the Vehicle Assembly Building.

As part of Rothman's interests in United States public policy (such as voting in relation to Arrow's impossibility theorem), he advocated for the creation of a new United States Constitution. Under this new Constitution there would be the addition of a seven-member fourth branch of government. This new branch's function would have been to police and, if warranted, remove members from the other branches for cause. He authored a book about his ideas.

Although Rothman only appeared on television once and presented once as a keynote speaker of a statistical conference in New York City, he also was the founder of a public policy think tank, FACT (Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments),[1], through which he will be best remembered as one of the original Bowl Championship Series computer rankings authors (1999–2002).[2][3]

David Rothman's ranking system was a computerized mathematical ranking system fully developed by himself. It was unbiased and gained notice and popularity from Bowl Championship Series (BCS) administrators, his peers and the public. His system has the advantage that was readily available to anyone who asked to use it, and it was nonproprietary.

Rothman would have liked his system to have been widely used in tournaments in college sports such as basketball and football, where standings of teams were available and coaches and schools could reproduce rankings quickly. This system only used the margin of the score and the name of the team to arrive at a ranking. He believed that the BCS organization could rely on his system because it was adequate and sufficient, and convinced them to use his system as one of the computer ranking systems used in determining their championship game participants. (Rothman had been selecting a national champion using his system since 1968.)

In 2002 when the revised BCS rules required all participating computer rankings to remove any weighting toward margin of victory, Rothman opted to drop out of the BCS, rather than make the necessary changes in his system. Rothman's system by design was indirectly incorporating margin of victory.

Rothman's ranking system was fairly accurate on a weekly basis[citation needed]. It is a common practice for the parties of interest to look at ranking data and look for values held by each participating team and measured either favorably or against that team. Rothman believed that it was evident that the success and validity of his system, which performed on a predictive basis, arose because he used the margin of victory as a factor.

FACT National Champions[edit]

The Foundation for the Analysis of Competitions and Tournaments selected the following NCAA Division I college football national champions.

Season Champion(s) Record Coach
1968 Ohio State 10–0 Woody Hayes
1969 Penn State 11–0 Joe Paterno
Texas 11–0 Darrell Royal
1970 Nebraska 11–0–1 Bob Devaney
Notre Dame 10–1 Ara Parseghian
Texas 10–1 Darrell Royal
1971 Nebraska 13–0 Bob Devaney
1972 USC 12–0 John McKay
1973 Ohio State 10–0–1 Woody Hayes
1974 Oklahoma 11–0 Barry Switzer
1975 Ohio State 11–1 Woody Hayes
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer
1976 Pittsburgh 12–0 Johnny Majors
1977 Arkansas 11–1 Lou Holtz
Notre Dame 11–1 Dan Devine
Texas 11–1 Fred Akers
1978 Alabama 11–1 Bear Bryant
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer
USC 12–1 John Robinson
1979 Alabama 12–0 Bear Bryant
1980 Florida State 10–2 Bobby Bowden
Georgia 12–0 Vince Dooley
Nebraska 10–2 Tom Osborne
Pittsburgh 11–1 Jackie Sherrill
1981 Clemson 12–0 Danny Ford
1982 Penn State 11–1 Joe Paterno
1983 Auburn 11–1 Pat Dye
Nebraska 12–1 Tom Osborne
1984 Florida 9–1–1 Galen Hall
1985 Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer
1986 Miami 11–1 Jimmy Johnson
Penn State 12–0 Joe Paterno
1987 Miami 12–0 Jimmy Johnson
1988 Notre Dame 12–0 Lou Holtz
1989 Miami 11–1 Dennis Erickson
Notre Dame 12–1 Lou Holtz
1990 Colorado 11–1–1 Bill McCartney
Georgia Tech 11–0–1 Bobby Ross
Miami 10–2 Dennis Erickson
Washington 10–2 Don James
1991 Washington 12–0 Don James
1992 Alabama 13–0 Gene Stallings
1993 Florida State 12–1 Bobby Bowden
1994 Nebraska 13–0 Tom Osborne
Penn State 12–0 Joe Paterno
1995 Nebraska 12–0 Tom Osborne
1996 Florida 12–1 Steve Spurrier
1997 Nebraska 13–0 Tom Osborne
1998 Tennessee 13–0 Phillip Fulmer
1999 Florida State 12–0 Bobby Bowden
2000 Oklahoma 13–0 Bob Stoops
2001 Miami 12–0 Larry Coker
2002 Ohio State 14–0 Jim Tressel
2003 LSU 13–1 Nick Saban
2004 USC[4] 11–0[5] Pete Carroll
2005 Texas 13–0 Mack Brown
2006 Florida 13–1 Urban Meyer
Ohio State 12–1 Jim Tressel


David Rothman's major hobby was genealogy, and his work in this area was credited in a book by Simon Louvish, Monkey Business (1999), about the Marx Brothers, by whom he was fascinated and wanted to make a film from Minnie's arrival to New York to Groucho's death. Rothman supplied Louvish material on Laurel and Hardy for another book. Rothman had also done some work on the family of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman[citation needed]. Many of David's boxes of paperwork were mailed by his sister Susan Rothman to their cousin Doris Rennert Hochman in West Palm Beach. Unfortunately not realizing the possible value of said materials, they were disposed of.[citation needed]

Rothman was a member of the American Statistical Association and the Prometheus Society. He was discussed in a February 1968 issue of TIME magazine as the first person who used computers to predict the outcome of football games.[citation needed]


Rothman was found dead in his Hawthorne, California residence on June 16, 2004. The coroner later ruled that the cause of death was atherosclerotic heart disease.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "FACT College Football Standings"
  2. ^ "What is in a Computer Ranking?"
  3. ^ "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Margin of Victory Falls in Bowl Rating"
  4. ^ The FWAA stripped USC of its 2004 Grantland Rice Trophy and vacated the selection of its national champion for 2004. The BCS also vacated USC's participation in the 2005 Orange Bowl and vacated USC's 2004 BCS National Championship and the AFCA Coaches' Poll Trophy was returned.ref1, ref2
  5. ^ Record reflects vacated wins against UCLA and against Oklahoma in the BCS Championship game on January 4, 2005 as mandated by the NCAA Archived December 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.