Dunkel Index Family History
The Dunkel Index has been a family-owned enterprise for over 90 years. Since its launch in 1929, the Dunkel Index has become a stamp of sports picks and rankings nationwide.
The Index has only become more accurate after three generations of slight modifications and experience. As the world of sports continues to change, the Dunkel Index has learned to adapt to it while maintaining its original standard of care and accessibility to sports fans.
To best understand the Dunkel Index, it's important to highlight the decades of history, credibility, and proof of longevity that have kept the Dunkel Index up and running today.
Origins of the Dunkel Index
We're back in the 1920s. The NFL just formed into what was previously known as the American Professional Football Association with only 11 teams. College football was being recognized as America's "greatest sporting spectacle," and stadiums were being built like wildfire.
Sports talk was popular by word of mouth and in newspaper articles, with the constant debate between the East and West coast college football teams over who was No. 1. Sports teams rarely traveled across the country to play each other, making this an ongoing disagreement at the time.
Dick Dunkel Sr., an advertising executive and sports lover in New York, was very familiar with statistics and, especially, weighing statistics as it related to advertising. His knowledge of mathematics and sports allowed him to combine the two in an effort to solve this nationwide dispute.
Much like any great problem-solver, Dick Dunkel Sr. invested in creating an ingenious solution: Take available data, create some formulas, and mathematically calculate the best teams in the U.S.
In 1929, Dick Sr. launched the Dunkel Index. At only 23 years old, Dunkel had taken some scratches on index cards and turned it into a system that was eventually syndicated throughout the country.
"My grandfather (Dick Dunkel Sr.) was Moneyball before Moneyball. I don't know if he looked like Brad Pitt (though), or Billy Beane for that matter," said Bob Dunkel about his grandfather, Dick Dunkel Sr.
He discovered what is now often taken for granted because of easy internet access and widely accessible data. Dick Sr. recognized that using analytics was a great way to measure the strength of a team and predictable outcomes.
Because the Dunkel Index was launched during the heat of this nationwide debate, it did not take long for people to discover the Index as a valuable tool.
Dick Dunkel Sr. syndicated the Dunkel Index and sold it to hundreds of newspapers. For decades to come, the Dunkel Index was featured every Saturday on the scoreboard page of the newspaper.
The Index even had sponsors like Tastykake, Coca-Cola, and the Atlantic Richfield Company, which was bought in 2000 by the giant now known as BP PLC. Posters promoting the Dunkel Index's sports picks and rankings were put on gas station and restaurant windows.
A combination of Dunkel's rankings were meaningful back then and truly left a mark on sports fans. One can still find the Dunkel Index in old collegiate yearbooks being recognized by schools like USC and Notre Dame among their list of national champions.
There was, inevitably, the gaming side to the industry, which Dick Sr. wanted no part in. He was not interested in gambling and stressed that the Dunkel Index was not to be used for gaming purposes.
Ultimately, the closest the Dunkel Index had come to shutting down was in the 1950s, and it was not over football, but basketball in this instance. The City College of New York (CCNY) point-shaving scandal of 1950-51 involved seven schools in New York and the Midwest.
The scandal accounted for mayhem in the industry and threatened anyone making game predictions based on an algorithm. After chaos ensued, there were several news outlets claiming that the Dunkel Index's predictions were too close, and Dick Sr. lost business because of that. These circumstances only reinforced Dunkel's stance on gambling and avoiding it as much as possible.
The Dunkel Index Through Family Generations
After later moving to Daytona Beach, Fla., Dunkel continued to guide the Dunkel Index to success until falling ill in the early 1970s. This is when, in 1972, he handed off the Index to his eldest son, Dick Jr., who, along with his younger brother, Bob, took on the task of expanding the enterprise.
Dick Jr. was living in Philadelphia when his father solicited his aid. Being that Dick Jr. had always been the most interested in the Dunkel Index, he decided to uproot his family and move to Daytona.
"I'm a lifelong Eagles and Phillies fan, so it was very difficult for me to move down to Daytona. I was not a NASCAR guy, still not a NASCAR guy… But we lived close enough (that) I can (still) remember hearing the cars at the speedway." said Bob Dunkel on his experiences leaving home with his father, Dick Jr.
Because of new leadership and the want to expand, the Index moved into other realms of sport, including professional basketball and football. One of the biggest assets to the Dunkel Index ended up being Dick Jr.'s choice and ability to computerize the models.
This move enabled the Index to cover every college program from Division I to the NAIA, and even explore high school ratings in Florida and a variety of other locations.
By the early 1980s, the market for sports picks and ratings was beginning to change. Many newspapers were slowly failing as production costs grew, and consolidation wavered.
Newspapers had been the primary source of revenue for the Dunkel Index, and by this time, many of them found they no longer had available space to carry the Index. Larger newspaper outlets like the New York Times began their own computer rankings system based on the same concepts as Dunkel.
Dick Jr. was in the newspaper business himself in Philadelphia and worked for a local newspaper called "The Bulletin." This was actually the largest circulation newspaper in Philadelphia for over 75 years and was once the largest evening newspaper in the country.
He decided to pursue the same line of work in Daytona and was hired for a position at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Dick Jr. was able to negotiate a deal with the News-Journal so that, in exchange for his work as managing editor, he was allowed to use their complex computer system to power the Index. They even provided him with a data guide and total use of their computer systems.
These were many assets and perks that Dick Dunkel Sr. did not have back in the early years of the Dunkel Index. All of Dick Sr.'s algorithms, predictions, picks, and calculations were done manually and without the ability to use the internet or search engines.
"(He was) the hardest working man in America," said Bob Dunkel about his grandfather, Dick Dunkel Sr.
Essentially, Dick Jr. ended up taking over the Dunkel Index from his father, and a new computer-based era for the Index began. Dick Jr.'s position with the Daytona Beach News-Journal was extremely helpful, considering they would provide him services to better collect and compute data.
He would still work based on newspaper sales, but this was a quality addition to his income. Because of his computer skills and resources, Dick Jr. was able to move the ratings onto an Internet platform.
Through the Daytona Beach News-Journal, he created a free-to-access website where those who had grown up using the Index could once again access its numbers. The Dunkel Index also became part of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1999 and continued to participate in their computer rankings through the 2001 season.
The Dunkel Index later chose to leave the BCS because of controversy regarding the use of scoring margins in algorithms. The BCS essentially wanted to change or completely rid itself of any system that used scoring margins.
The Dunkel Index does, in fact, use scoring margins as it is found to be very helpful in determining future performance. Because of the Index's stance on the matter and refusal to change their algorithm, they decided to leave BCS.
"Scores and outcomes matter. Winning the game does matter," said Bob Dunkel on using scoring margins
Leading up to the early 2000s, newspapers were beginning to decline in popularity and sales. The way information was being shared was quickly changing and evolving into what we know now as modern media.
Syndicated things like the Dunkel Index were some of the first to go from the newspaper stands. Unfortunately, Dick Jr. passed away in 2003. By that time, there was not much business left in newspaper sales, and other algorithm-based systems were being launched around the country.
The Modern Index and Its Stamps
After the death of Dick Jr., the Index was left somewhat in limbo. The Daytona Beach News-Journal terminated their agreement to serve as the web host and provide the computer systems for running the Dunkel Index's calculations.
For the first time in decades, the Dunkel Index faced the possibility of not producing ratings. Dick Jr.'s two sons, Bob and Richard, were left with the difficult decision to either preserve the family business or let it disseminate.
Bob Dunkel was unsure if the Index was worth preserving because of the many changes occurring in the market and the challenges they had faced in recent years. Bob and Richard quickly realized that this was not only a family business but a family-owned enterprise with over 70 years in the making.
"I thought, 'It's not often that you have an opportunity to take over something that has two generations before you, their work, their effort, to make it what it was. I think I owe it (to them) to at least try to see if I can keep it going,'" said Bob Dunkel on taking over the family-owned enterprise.
Bob Dunkel, living in Northern Virginia at the time, decided to bring the Dunkel Index to Virginia and set up a base. He used "Yahoo! SiteBuilder," a program that is no longer recognized by Millenials and Gen-Zers, to create a Dunkel Index website.
From there, the Dunkel Index has evolved into what it is today. Bob Dunkel has succeeded in keeping the Index going and will be celebrating his 13th season as the leader of the operation.
The Dunkel Index provides users and their audience with longevity. The Index has the ability and resources to retrace history and discuss the 1920s and 1930s sports industry because it was present at their peak.
The more Bob Dunkel continues to explore the new Dunkel Index, the more he becomes fascinated with the endeavor. Managing sports predictions comes with its frustrations, as no algorithm or set of predictions will ever be 100% reliable.
The Dunkel Index has been modified to reflect more of the modern game, but the core of the Index is still what Dick Dunkel Sr. developed back in 1929. As the sports industry expands into new pastures in the modern age, the Dunkel Index has the opportunity to step back in the limelight and depict why it has been a success story three generations in the making.
Today, the Dunkel Index is enjoying renewed success. With a new website and a growing number of loyal followers, the Index continues to produce ratings and picks among the best in the business.
On the Dunkel Index website, one can find daily sports highlights, top picks, and ratings across several sports, including football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer. Bob and Ben Dunkel have even launched The Dunkel Index Podcast, giving sports fans a "look behind the numbers." It can be found across applications like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
While others have created their own systems to compete with the Index, Dunkel remains the market standard. The Dunkel Index has had a long and eventful past. Under the guidance of Bob Dunkel, the Index is sure to have an equally bright future.
The Future of the Dunkel Index
"I still run into older generations today that remember the Dunkel Index running every Saturday on their scoreboard page," said Bob Dunkel on the mark the Index has made on sports fans.
As longevity continues to be the differentiating factor between the Dunkel Index and its competitors, the Index is interested to see where the emerging new sports world will take them. Straying from tradition, Bob Dunkel is keen on exploring sports betting and gambling in the U.S.
It is becoming more popular than ever as several states have legalized the activity, and many others have sports betting currently under legislation. Although this feat may not have warranted the wanted results in decades past, the modern sports world is growing to include sports betting rather than reject it.
Of course, there are other traditions that will go unaltered, including maintaining the Dunkel Index as a free-to-access resource for users nationwide. This was the model embodied by the creator and founder, Dick Dunkel Sr., who wanted everyone to be free to read and use the numbers as they did in the Saturday newspaper.
As states and the sports industry itself continue to explore legal sports betting, the Dunkel Index hopes to grow into a helpful tool in this aspect as well.
As the Dunkel Index has experienced firsthand, with the changing of times comes the advancement of technology. E-sports have become one of the largest growing industries in recent years.
With growing interest and added coverage, there is a lot to unpack within the world of esports and its team aspect. There is also no telling what impact esports will soon have on the sports industry as a whole, considering COVID-19 shutdowns and regulations putting most team sports on a possibly never-ending pause.
With the hopes of a healing world come the hopes of a new start for sports, or a "restart" in this instance. The Dunkel Index plans to expand its sports coverage to a wider range of team sports when team competition resumes. Bob has also just started doing PGA and NASCAR ratings, as well as EPL ratings that he started doing a few years ago.
As Bob puts it, it’s ironic that a guy who never considered himself a “NASCAR guy” now spends his Sundays watching NASCAR races. But that’s the beauty of the index, in that it can, in the words of Dick Jr., “rate just about anything.”
Although many aspects of the future are unknown, it is clear that sports' history and longevity, much like that of the Dunkel Index, are timeless and missed in times like these.