Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Annual Rant About 40-Yard Dash Times

The Beijing Olympics begin this week. Unfortunately, Michigan cornerback Morgan Trent, right, will not be part of the U.S. track team.

According to a chart posted in the Wolverine weight room, Trent clocked 4.13 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Not only is the best time among Michigan players, it obliterates the best time ever recorded on a track. That time was 4.38 by Ben Johnson, who set a world record of 9.79 in winning the 100 meters at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Timing officials broke down that famed race to come up with the time. Johnson, of course, had to give it all back after testing positive for steroids.

Yes, 40 times are full of it, just like recruiting rankings.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe it was a misprint by ESPN and that it was his shuttle time, not 40-yard dash.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking up this cause Wiz. I have thought about quitting my job to devote my full attention to debunking this lunacy but have, for now, decided that is too extreme.

Sean O said...

Your math is off...if Ben Johnson (or any sprinter) only ran 40 yards wouldn't it be faster than the 40 as part of their 100 time?

It's like taking a sprinter's time for the first 100 of a 200...it's not accurate.

I bet if Tyson Gay had to run just 40 yards...he could do in 4-flat.

dcat said...

I ran track in college. Our football coach had been the head track coach before taking the football position and still was an assistant on the track team. (He is in the college football hall of fame as a coach.) Every year a senior football player would come out for track as a 100 meter runner. Every year coach would say the same thing: These football guys all think they are fast until they come out for track. And it was always true.

dcat

Anonymous said...

No Sean, because it takes awhile to get going from the dead stop at the start to full speed. The last 40 yards will go by a lot quicker than the first 40.

The guys who did the breakdown are smart enough to account for this. They used the footage to time Johnson from the start to the 40 yard mark, they didn't just multiply 9.79 seconds by 4/10

Anonymous said...

They are different distances, and as such are run differently. You do not take someone's 100m time and try to convert it to 40 yards, it just doesn't work right, no matter what variables you try and throw in to make it more accurate.

Especially given that the 40 yards is not an Olympic event, none of the athletes specialize in it. While it's comparing sprinting to sprinting, it's still apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Ranter.

To the person who responded about how the 40 yard dash is run differently than the 100 meter, I disagree. For the top sprinters in the world there is no "holding back" in the 100, the athletes are in such good shape as they go flat out for the whole distance. Even in the 200 where they might tire some, they are basically running as fast as they can. Speaking of which, in Atlanta in 1996 M. Johnson's 200 time divided by two was lower than the world record 100 time.

If you're still not convinced, why not look at a more representative distance using the world indoor 50- and 60-meter records.

The 50-meter record is 5.56 seconds and the 60-meter record is 6.39 seconds. Meaning that, if we assume by the end of those races the runners are going absolutely as fast as they can, top-notch sprinters can cover the last 10 meters in about .83 seconds (i.e., 0.083 seconds per meter). Now if we assume that these runners were running as fast at the 40 yard mark (which is 36.576 meters, yards are slightly shorter) we can make a rough estimate of their 40 yard time by taking 5.56 - ((50 - 36.576) * 0.083) for a total of 4.445 seconds. Or even slower than Ben Johnson's amazing (steroid enhanced) time!!

Now, a few assumptions were made, but no one is going to convince me that the 50-meter dash is dramatically different than the 40-yard dash. If anything the assumptions I made would lead to an even slower 40 yard time since these world class sprinters were probably running faster between meters 40 and 50 than they were between meters 30 and 40.

A few caveats that may explain why faster 40 times are frequently reported - 1) Many of them are hand-timed (particularly for HS and many colleges) and since the players are timed by coaches, there is an incentive to have a quick finger since it makes the team more formidable and raises the reputation of the players. 2) Many 40 times are also based on the player's first movement, not a starting pistol as is used in track. This means the reaction time is not included in the 40-yard time.

Hope this was informative.

Anonymous said...

yet morgan trent still cant cover anybody...

Anonymous said...

This blogger didn't do the greatest background research. Take a look at this Wikipedia article on the 40-yard dash under the section "best times."

Anonymous said...

Actually you are all wrong. It is true that you cannot compare track times to football times...it is apples to oranges...but it is beacuse of the way it is timed and not the quickness of the runners. Football 40 times are hand-timed generally and they are started on the movement of the runner. This lowers the time significantly. In a track race part of your time is the reaction time it takes to start when the gun fires...in a football 40 this is not an issue. in fact they gain back even more time because all of the reaction time is in their favor (athlete starts and then old man with stop watch pushes button...his reaction time is SUBTRACTED from the time).

The combine times are electronically timed but they still start on movement and not a gun.

In the end you can only compare 40 times to other 40 times and this is much ado about nothing. I suspect the best track athletes in the world would run insane football 40 times. We will find out soon enough though because Trindon Holliday (LSU player) is an olympic caliber sprinter (10 flat) and has a tremendous start time. His 40 at the combine eventually should tell the tale i think.