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Grading Wonderlic And The Best Sports Video Game

The Wonder What?:
The NFL Scouting Combine starts tomorrow in Indianapolis, so we thought it would be appropriate to talk to Michael Callans, president of Wonderlic Consulting. As many of you know, the Wonderlic test is the subject of much debate. Do teams really learn anything by giving their players aptitude tests?

Here’s what you need to know. The Wonderlic test was invented 70 years ago by a psychologist. It’s basically like an SAT. You get 12 minutes to answer 50 questions. You get a point for each question correctly answered.

Despite what you might think, NFL players are not more stupid than the average population -- they technically shouldn’t be since they "went" to college for three years.

Callans, who oversees 80 employees in the company’s Libertyville, Ill., offices, told us that this year will be the first year that the Wonderlic people themselves will administer the testing at the combine and that it will also be the first year that the player’s names will be encrypted in the database to ensure better security of the scores (Did Vince Young really score a 6 on his first try?).

Q: Tell us about the Wonderlic.

Callans: The Wonderlic Personnel Test is administered three million times a year in virtually just about any job in the U.S. economy. It used to select entry-level workers, first line managers, even bank executives. We had 7,000 clients in 2006 use our test. We’ve got the range from Fortune 100 companies down to an office with a dentist hiring a dental hygienist. So it’s a wide range. It’s one of those universal predictors of success on the job is your thinking skills, your cognitive ability. Will you be able to understand the work that is put before you? Regardless of the level, it’s providing the employer with very good information about the qualities and qualifications of the applicant. The NFL’s use of the test is a little unique in that it’s the only sports league that actually uses the test.

Q: What’s the history of the league using it?

Callans: The history is a little muddied because when they started to use it was in the late 60s or early 70s and, by most accounts, it was Paul Brown who began to use it. But there is some also reference to the Cowboys as the first team to use it. At that time, the NFL wasn’t the machine that it is today and there wasn’t much attention being paid to who are customers were and how they were using the test, so we don’t have much of the history, but what we began to understand is that the Cowboys were really a driving force. As they were building their franchise, they were looking to understand more about the player than just their physical abilities and they were going outside of football and even, in bringing in players, they wanted to know about their potential to do well out on the field. And after that and their success, it really took off.

Q: How much does the attention that you get every year around this time contribute to the bottom line of your business?

Callans: We don’t have a way to track it, whether someone who saw Wonderlic Personnel Test in use with football would say, “I’d like to use it for our employees.” We hope that it works out that way. We hope that employers recognize that measuring someone’s thinking skills or problem solving skills has application in the workplace because that’s how it was originally designed to be used.

Q: How do football players score on the test?

Callans: The average score for the US population is a 21 on the test as it happens the average score for the NFL is also 21 on the test. If you look at the overall trend, you see that quarterbacks score somewhere around a 25 and centers score somewhere around a 25 as well and as you move away from the ball and you move away from where a lot of the decisions are being made on the fly you tend to see lower scores on average. Also if you look at starters, starters scores tend to be higher than non-starters scores. Not team is using a test score to decide if a person should start or not, it just so happens to work out that if you’re brighter you do better on the field, you tend to find yourself in a starting position.

We now take a break in the interview to discuss the Wonderlic legend of VY. Vince Young, on his second test, supposedly got a 16. According to the Wonderlic scale we looked at, this is how they would evaluate a 16. It’s comparable to the score of a food service worker or a custodian or janitor. A person who scores a 16 has a “slightly better than average chance of reaching the 9th grade or entering high school” and “may not benefit from book learning training.” Now back to the Interview.

Q: How much does each team use the test?

Callans: I think it varies by team. I think all the teams look at it to some degree. I haven’t had a team tell me that they didn’t think it was of any value at all. What I’ve heard from many of the teams is that it’s really useful information in the middle rounds. In the first rounds of the draft, you’ll have an awful lot of information about they players, they’ve been watching them, watching tapes, had their scouts, observing them during games. But when you get to the middle rounds, when you have less information about those players, it’s one of those indicators that can help them learn a little bit more about that player.

Q: Besides write the test, how much does the company actually do?

Callans: This is the first year where we’re going to be administering the test at the combine. We’ve been having a fairly close relationship with the league for the past 10 years and each year we get more and more involved.

Q: The scores are not announced. What do you do from a security standpoint?

Callans: We’ve implemented a system where it’s a blind scoring analysis where the names of the players aren’t actually written on the test and it goes through the scoring algorithms and reports come out and we link those scores and codes back to players names.

Q: So the players names aren’t written on the test?

Callans: We still may ask the players to write the names on the test, but there’s a scoring technique that’s electronic and it doesn’t end up in our database with the player’s name on them.

A New Era In Pricing:
Major League Baseball and New Era announced yesterday that the official Major League Baseball cap will go from 100 percent wool to 100 percent polyester. It’s designed, the cap company says, to help wick away sweat, thus evaporating it faster and reducing the stains and odor. Years ago, it was Under Armour that taught us we should care about wicking, but how much should a fan who wants to wear the official cap care? After all, what percentage of fans wearing official caps play with them? I’m confident in saying that number is way under 1 percent. Now fans can still buy a batting practice cap - 62 percent polyester and 38 percent wool -- for $28, but the real ones? They’ve now surpassed the $30 mark. We’ve been told that they’ll cost $32 and not a penny cheaper.

What I can’t understand is that I always thought that polyester was always cheaper than wool. So the question is: Are costs going up with the new cap or is New Era using the new cap -- and the marketing costs associated with its deal with Major League Baseball - to try to make more money.? I’m not against making more money by the way, I just want fans to know what exactly they are paying for. By the way, I asked the same questions when the NBA’s new ball (now the defunct ball) was sold at a higher price than the real leather ball. From talking to retailers in the industry, here’s how a $32 cap breaks down.

New Era makes the cap for about $6 -- it costs more by the way because they make it here in this country -- it could cost about half that if they made it in Asia. New Era then sells it to the retailer for about $14. The retailer than can more than double their money on the retail sale. New Era then pays MLB 20% of the gross sale of the hat (that's $14 or so) or $2, whichever is greater. While I’m sure MLB is interesting in cashing in, I’ve also been told that they’ve made an earnest effort to try to keep the cap costs down because, let’s be honest, the hats are the best advertising the sport has.

That $32 is a lot of money, even though we were assured by one retailer that cap sales won’t slow down because of the price increase of the official cap from $29 last year. By the way, I’m betting that 2007 is the year New Era gets sold to either a public company or a private equity group.

Sports League Execs Laugh at XM-Sirius Merger:
Besides Howard Stern and Oprah, no one has benefited more from the battle between XM and Sirius . Both satellite radio companies have seen sports as a key to their growth and they have battled and paid enormous rights fees for sports broadcast rights -- more than $1 billion in agreements when you tally it all up.

Crocs and NASCAR:
Crocs continues to be a robust business, quadrupling its fourth-quarter 2006 profit from the same period a year ago. The company announcing yesterday that it had signed licensing agreements with DEI, Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports to feature its drivers on the shoes. The company already has licensing deals with at least 17 colleges and also recently struck deals with the NHL and the NFL.

Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!:
A company called ProFormance Sports Marketing and Entertainment announced yesterday that it was planning on opening the nation’s official Cheerleading Hall of Fame. It makes sense given that the company’s president is former NFL cheerleading director Cindy Villarreal-Hughes. Possible locations for the building, the company said, are in Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, California and Florida (specifically Orlando).

Britney In The House?:
The Syracuse Crunch of the AHL have offered Britney Spears an all-expense paid trip to Syracuse, New York. If she arrives, every front office member will shave their heads. Also, any woman coming to the Feb. 24 game against the Manitoba Moose with a shaved head will receive a free ticket. “The team and community want to provide Britney Spears with a stress free environment and the chance to experience a high level of hockey,” said Crunch president and CEO Howard Dolgon, in a news release. “In addition to being 3,000 miles away from Hollywood, Syracuse is light years away from that pretentious environment. There won’t be paparazzi within a 100 miles.”

…. And EA’s NBA Homecourt for the X-Box 360 shipped yesterday and trust me, it might be the best sports game you have ever played.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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