Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New system to seed football playoffs?

Drew Pasteur, an assistant professor of mathematics at the College of Wooster in Ohio, may be in the process of changing the way the N.C. High School Athletic Association chooses teams and seeds them for its state playoffs

Pasteur, an Enloe High graduate, loves high school athletics, particularly football, and was the public-address announcer and athletics trainer at Fuquay-Varina for years.

He combined his two loves, math and high school football, with his rankings.

Now, he has taken the next step and has developed what he believes is a FAIR way to determine which teams advance to the state playoffs and how those teams are seeded.

FAIR stands for:

Fresh start (all teams rank equally at the beginning of the year);

All NCHSAA games count (nonconference and conference games are treated equally);

Ignore non-NCHSAA games (only games against NCHSAA games are used for seeding);

Reproducible (formulas are based entirely on math, without subjective material).

"I think the system the NCHSAA uses is better than the old system that used predetermined brackets, but we can develop a better system," Pasteur said.

Some states use a power ranking to seed playoffs, but the NCHSAA has adamantly opposed any system that was subjective. Teams from different regions rarely play each other, so ranking them is difficult.

The NCHSAA's current system uses conference finish and overall record to seed teams.

The system is complex. All conference champions are seeded above any second-place team. Teams are seeded on the basis of 10 games, even if they play 11. And because of combination conferences, leagues that have teams from different NCHSAA classifications, a 4-A team playing in a 3-A/4-A league could finish fourth or fifth behind 3-A teams but still be ranked as a 4-A champion.

And since conference size varies, a team finishing third in a five-team league should be seeded lower than a No. 4 in a nine-team league, but that isn't the case with the current system.

"Several states use rankings as a basis for the playoffs, but the NCHSAA isn't interested in that, and I understand," Pasteur said. "I tried to develop a system that is very objective. Anyone could take the formula and get the same results every time. It is not a case of a person weighing criteria. It is pure math."

Rick Strunk, the associate executive director of the NCHSAA, said the system is fascinating.

"This addresses most of the things we have heard coaches talking about," Strunk said. "I haven't studied it yet, but it definitely looks like something our sports committee would like to see."

Basically, Pasteur's formula gives a team points for each game it wins (more points for beating higher- classification teams) and additional points for the wins by its opposition.

Beating good teams gives the most points, but there is some credit for playing good teams, even if those games are lost, because points are given for the wins of opposing teams. Bonus points are given for winning a conference championship or for being the top team from the lower classification in a split conference.

He said he developed the ratings after hearing from several coaches and from his own struggles filling out the bracket using the current system.

"I'm sitting there with a computer program, trying to figure out who is in and who is not," Pasteur said. "It is pretty complicated."

Pasteur doesn't expect the NCHSAA to embrace the FAIR system as it is or soon.

"There would have to be some refinements," he said. "But I hope that we can start a discussion and perhaps move toward something like this."

The system might have a better shot in four years when the NCHSAA realigns into new conferences. Charlie Adams, the executive director, believes the NCHSAA will go to five or six classes.

Using the FAIR formula and assuming the season ended today, Charlotte Independence would be the No. 1 4-AA seed in the West and Wake Forest-Rolesville would be No. 1 in the East. Southeast Raleigh, Southern Durham, Leesville Road, Durham Hillside, Fuquay-Varina and Harnett Central would be in the top 16.

-- Tim Stevens, Raleigh News & Observer


Anonymous said...

yada yada yada ...

the one thing def not needed is some highly complex formula to furthur confuse a confusing situation

nchsaa has screwed up and missed the boat again as usual by not developing 6 divisions for all high school sports.

its been 50 yrs since they expanded to 4 divisions when nc pop was 2 million and now there are 9 million and still 4 divisions and they want some idiot math whiz in ohio to complicate a mess? please....

nchsaa need to immediately go to 6 divs for 2010-2011 and do a new confernce split and ditch the new alignment crapola.

2010 is a good even number to start all over from scratch and to keep delaying the inevitable is incompent lunacy.