Penalty rates in the NFL
In a 2012 paper in Economic Inquiry, the University of Mississippi’s Carl Kitchens described how a repositioning of an NFL referee led to a change in the frequency of offensive holding penalties. Kitchens writes:
The results suggest that the detection effect is large. Simply by repositioning the officials in the NFL, the players with an extra set of eyes on them experienced a 20% increase in the number of called penalties, while the set of players who had the set of eyes removed had a large decrease in the number of penalties detected.
Kitchens used two full years of play-by-play data, 2009, and 2010, to reach his conclusion. His models also suggested that the change was largest on run plays, and negligible on pass plays. The paper, in its original form, can be read here, and in published form, read here.
Referee behavior has always fascinated me…
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