Monday, February 27, 2006

Vince Young and The Wonderlic Test: What Does the Test Really Prove? That America's Still Racist - Dan Marino Scored a 16

There has been much press about Texas QB Vince Young scoring only six of 50 questions correct on something called The Wonderlic Test, and that the test was incorrectly scored. Aside from the character assasination that has taken place against Young, and by some who don't want to see him succeed and are acting in a boarderline illegal and prosecutable fashion, I doubt the Wonderlic itself is being used properly. It's supposed to test an employees ability to solve problems related to a job.

I'm going to throw this bomb: The Wonderlic Test -- as it's applied -- has nothing to do with football and given the fact that the questions aren't directly related to the game, an athlete could sue an NFL team or the NFL itself for damages related to the improper use of the test.

I'm not kidding.

According to legal scholar Daniel L. Wong, the case of Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 considered and invalidated the use of the "Wonderlic Personnel Test," which purported to measure general intelligence, and the Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test.

Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 431 (1975) also considered the Wonderlic test as well as the Beta Examination, which purported to test non-verbal intelligence. The key in these and subsequent federal decisions, is the extent to which employers are able to demonstrate that tests are truly related to job performance.

Jason Chung wrote an 18-page paper reporting in part how the Wonderlic is used as a way to block the assention of black college quarterbacks into the NFL. Chung writes:

The "Wonderlic" Argumentation

Another major barrier that African-American quarterbacks face stems from the increased use of the Wonderlic intelligence test through 1968 to 1999. Michael Callans, President of Wonderlic Consulting, advances the popular argument that:

[Quarterbacks] need to lead, think on their feet, evaluate all of their
options and understand the impact their actions will have on the
outcome of the game. Wonderlic helps team owners make the best
selections by identifying which players have the mental strength to
lead their team to victory.

This belief has been prevalent since at least the 1970s when Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys became the first NFL head coach to screen for players using a generic aptitude test - the Wonderlic Personnel Test.25 Landry was looking for a tool to quantify intelligence and draw a correlation between that and performance. In the subsequent 30 years upon its introduction the Wonderlic has become a key performance prognosticator for many NFL franchises. Though most prospective NFL players are put through the test, those players in strategic (read white) positions are scrutinized more closely. NFL scouts believe that the test will help them identify quarterbacks that will assimilate NFL playbooks quicker and identify quarterbacks that make better decisions.

Generally speaking, a score in the mid-twenties is considered acceptable for a prospective NFL quarterback. In 1994, the Cleveland Browns were looking for a quarterback that scored at least a 24 on the Wonderlic. These high expectations have acted as an imposing intellect barrier for African-American quarterbacks who, as an ethnic group, have historically had a tough time meeting this benchmark and thus were discounted from consideration by some NFL teams due to a deficiency of intellect. There were but few black quarterbacks, the argument went, that had the mental capacity to succeed on the test and therefore on the field. An examination of relatively reliable Wonderlic scores shows that black quarterbacks, more commonly than white quarterbacks, score lower than 20: Jeff Blake in 1992, Kordell Stewart in 1995 and Steve McNair in 1995 all scored 17 or lower.

The failure of African-American quarterbacks to meet the lofty mid-twenties standard has spawned criticism of the whole procedure. The traditional argument against the Wonderlic has been that it, like all aptitude tests, was culturally biased and therefore systemically set up to ensure that black athletes receive lower scores. This charge, until recently, was the primary accusation levelled against the Wonderlic.

However, more recent studies have exposed a more illuminating fact. A study by David Chan et al. noted that African-Americans adults in general have a lower regard in general for aptitude tests than their Caucasian counterparts which caused them to score lower on the tests. After motivation was given to black test-takers their scores improved until there was no
discernible difference between black test scores and white test scores.

Critics point to additional flaws with the Wonderlic system other than race-related lower test scores. It has been pointed out that there are some "Wonderlic smart" players that are "football dumb". Numerous NFL coaches, including Tony Dungy and Denny Green, note that good Wonderlic scores do not necessarily equate success in decision-making prowess on the

Indeed, the converse is also true, low Wonderlic scores do not necessarily signify weak quarterback play. For instance, Dan Marino, the NFL's all-time leading passer, only scored a 16 but by all accounts he was very intelligent football-wise.

Still, because it remains the only quantifiable method of measuring intelligence the Wonderlic continues to be used by NFL teams. As a consequence, because of the reasons stated above, it seems black quarterbacks will generally continue to score lower on the Wonderlic than their white counterparts. If the period from 1968 to 1999 is any indication, many black quarterbacks will be shunned due to a low score and "low intelligence".

That is what's happening today. But since it's true that the Wonderlic does not actually measure football related aptitude, then the NFL itself is wide open for a class action lawsuit if this problem is not cleared up -- a legal battle the league would surely lose.

It would lose on the very basis that its own coaches can't defend the claim that it tests "football intelligence" yet that's the image being communicated by much of the media and some NFL teams. If a player scores poorly on it, they, like Vince Young, are branded as not football smart, an observation anyone would have to be a total fool to accept in the case of Texas' National Champion QB.

And with that, someone must explain how Miami's NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Marino -- who scored a 16 on the Wonderlic -- became one of the league's best signal callers in its history? A 16 on the Wonderlic means that Marino had an IQ of less than 100. Do you believe that? I didn't think so.

Someone out there better appologize to Vince Young.