September 28, 2011
UW games by the numbers: Craig Heyamoto, statistics crew chief
When Craig Heyamoto was 7 years old, his father sat him in front of a TV and announced that the UW was playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, “and we root for the Huskies.”
Since that New Years Day in 1960, 58-year-old Heyamoto has either attended, watched on television or listened on the radio to all but two UW football games. Those two he later watched on tape.
And for the last 34 years, Heyamoto has headed the crew that keeps statistics at UW home football games. He also leads the crews that keep stats for UW mens basketball and Seahawks football. And he keeps statistics at road games for UW football play-by-play announcer Bob Rondeau and UW womens basketball radio broadcasts.
As if that werent enough, he also helps keep statistics for the Seattle Storm womens professional basketball team and Seattle Sounders FC soccer.
Heyamoto holds both math and law degrees from the UW. Of the two, he said, law is more valuable for his work as a sports statistician because he must often interpret NCAA guidelines.
But its both time-consuming and demanding, albeit a tad different from Heyamotos job as senior counsel for Boeings commercial airplane division. Along with his work as a lawyer, Heyamoto serves as a liaison between Boeing and UW Bothell, facilitating such things as research, recruiting for jobs and internships, and sponsorship of events and student groups.
On game days, Heyamoto typically shows up at Husky Stadium about four hours ahead of kickoff. With a backpack that includes a row of 16 pens – among them a different color for each quarter of the game – he hikes briskly to a booth at the west end of the press box that has just enough room for 10 chairs, two narrow work tables and a red phone to Jeff Bechthold, UW director of athletic communications.
As soon as hes hung his backpack, Heyamoto tacks up player lists and lays out worksheets for each member of his team. He tries to anticipate as much as possible so that the unforeseen is manageable. “Im very process driven,” he said while setting up for the California game Sept. 24.
When play begins, members of the statistics team call out and record information in pre-assigned order, often five to 10 entries per play. At the Cal game, UW alumnus Dan Lepse was responsible for offensive calls (passes, receptions, rushes) and backup stats. Gary Heyamoto, Craigs brother, who has both undergraduate and dental degrees from the UW, called defensive statistics (tackles, fumbles, interceptions). Bryan Thorn punched data into a computer while Susan Reid kept a manual record. Two UW students tracked who played for each team, a Ballard High School student put stats on the stadium scoreboard and an announcer relayed information to the press box while another person relayed statistics to the broadcast truck.
Heyamoto is the conductor, ensuring that each crew member supplies information in the correct order. His most important job, however, is to remember and apply NCAA guidelines. For example, during the Cal game, a center hiked the ball poorly to a quarterback, leading to a fumble and loss of yardage. Calculating lost yardage was simple. Assessing the loss to the team, not the quarterback, took more knowledge.
Rooting isnt allowed in the statistics booth. Too distracting and not considerate – the visiting athletic director and guests are next door.
“But we still cheer,” Thorn said. “We just do it so nobody notices.”
This upcoming January, at least one UW team will be at the Rose Bowl. In 2008, Heyamotos crew was selected to be official statisticians for the game.
On his own time, Heyamoto often watches other games, learning how other statistics crews do their jobs. But unlike the Peter Brand character in the recent film, Moneyball, Heyamoto does not analyze statistics for coaches or managers. Hes happy to leave that to them.
By Heyamotos own account, hes not a particularly good athlete, so he got his start by keeping score for kids teams coached by his father, Hiromu Heyamoto, who lettered in UW baseball.
Heyamoto worked into the UW statistics job by compiling football and basketball statistics for his high school in Burien, and that led to a couple of NCAA events at the UW and odd jobs at Husky games.
In a 1975 business course, Heyamoto wrote a software program for basketball statistics, and coupled with his other experience, it earned him the job as stat crew chief. He was only 24, and, everybody else in the statistics box seemed older. “So I was a little scared,” Heyamoto recalled. “A crew member took me aside and said, ‘Not every call you make is going to be perfect, but you have to call em with conviction. Youve got to lead, or the crew will eat you up. Dont be afraid to make a call.”
The results obviously matter: “We study the opponents’ numbers for tendencies and strengths, and try to attack accordingly,” said UW football Head Coach Steve Sarkisian. Asked what statistics are particularly important to him, he said, “I look at turnover margin. I look at third-down efficiency. I look at red-zone scoring opportunities and production. And lastly, I look at time of possession.”
These days, the Internet means sports statistics can be compiled and spread a whole lot faster than they could years ago. So does it mean overload for fans? More statistics than necessary? Maybe, acknowledged Heyamoto, but fans seem to want more statistics. And fantasy football people, he said, theyre a whole other level.
For his trouble, Heyamoto is paid $50 per game, which he donates to the university. He sees his legal training and ability with numbers as a way to give back. “I also like the collegiality,” he said. “I love sports, and its fun to be in the booth.”