Seeking simplification in power rating formula

The Oregon School Activities Association rankings committee had its final meeting June 10, and the state’s polarizing power ratings system will most likely be getting a facelift.

Since the inception of the system in 2010 — one that is designed to function like the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index used for national tournament selection and to seed postseason brackets — it has been both embraced and shunned by just about everyone involved in Oregon high school sports.

From the recommendations put forth by the committee, for the OSAA Executive Board to act on during its summer convention in July, some wholesale changes are likely coming to the system. Approval of all recommendations is expected. The first, and perhaps most impactful, change to system calls for the elimination of an entire value in the power rating formula.

The third column of the current formula, the opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage — an average of every team a certain opponent plays throughout the year — will be sacked.

Under the current formula, the average OOWP is weighted at 25 percent of the final product that determines where a team stands in the ratings. Teams that play out-of-state competition have never been given credit for that part of the formula, due to logistical issues of tracking those teams and their schedules, so the committee wanted to “make things as equitable as possible,” said OSAA assistant executive director Peter Weber, liaison to the committee.

“Teams that play a large out-of-state nonconference schedule weren’t getting the credit there, so the committee thought it would be better to cut it out,” Weber said.

Another factor in the committee’s recommendation was the 147-13 vote by the state’s athletic directors to cut out the value, held at the Oregon Athletic Directors Association’s summer conference.

“When that much of the membership wants a change,” Weber said, “it’s best to go with it.”

Madras athletic director Rory Oster agrees with what the committee has proposed.

“If it makes things more equitable, which it should, then I’m all for it,” he said. “It might affect football more than other sports, because there are fewer games, but in the end I think it’s a good thing overall.”

With the elimination of the OOWP, there was a need to redistribute the formula weights for the other two parts — weighted winning percentage and opponents’ winning percentage.

In the current formula, a team’s weighted winning percentage — which assigns values for home, away and neutral site contests in relation to the result of the game — has been 25 percent of a team’s total power rating. Games are given a higher value for games on the road of 1.2, are assessed an even value in games at neutral sites and are given a 0.8 value for home games. Teams are awarded the points when they win, and then divided by the total amount of weighted games. The value will now be changed to 40 percent, under the committee’s recommendation.

That leaves what is left of the strength of schedule portion of the formula, or the opponents’ winning percentage, to take up the remaining 60 percent. The value is 10 percent higher than the current formula of 50 percent.

“This puts more importance on teams actually winning games than it did before,” Weber said. “Again, it was all based on how equitable the committee could be, and the committee thinks they were able to achieve that with the percentage breakdown.”

The committee considered an even 50/50 split, and a 45/55 split, but thought the 40/60 split balanced the strength of schedule piece along with when it was essentially 25/75 on the schedule side in the old formula.

“There are varying degrees of opinions about this, and we know that’s going to happen regardless of what we do,” Weber said. “The committee is trying to make it as fair as possible.”

Another change that is likely coming is putting a deadline on when teams can schedule contests.

In what has become a bit of a trend, some schools schedule games against teams two, sometimes three, classifications apart from them at the end of the season, in order to boost their final power ratings and get a better seed in the playoffs. Teams still receive full credit for wins against teams, even if they aren’t in the same classification, so it’s a last-ditch effort to manipulate the ratings and can completely change a playoff picture overnight.

While it’s technically legal to do, both the committee and Oster question the ethics of the move.

“It’s more of a problem when teams schedule late games with teams more than one class away,” Oster said. “There needs to be something to help make that not happen.”

The committee is suggesting that any games scheduled after a certain point of the season will not be considered a “rankable” game, as Weber put it.

“The committee felt they needed to address this issue,” Weber said. “Not a lot of schools do it, but it needed to be dealt with.”

The deadline to schedule games in fall sports would be Oct. 1. The winter sports deadline would be Jan. 15, and the spring sports would have a deadline of April 15, to schedule games in order to count in the rankings.

Crescent Valley's 5A baseball program scheduled nearby Santiam Christian, a 3A power, late in the season to help boost its power rating. Hermiston, also a 5A school, did the same in baseball against Stanfield/Echo, a 2A team. Both larger schools won the games, and reaped the benefits of the smaller school's high winning percentage to jump several spots the night before the rankings were frozen.

The scheduling deadlines are set in place to help prevent that from happening again.

Other changes the committee suggested to the rankings system include seeding teams in one big group, rather than in groups of eight, to help clarify what seed a team actually is. Round of 16 teams would be seeded 1-16, rather than in two groups of 1-8.

The highest rated team will also have home field advantage in all cases, regardless of how many home games they have had in prior rounds.

After the quarterfinal round, teams that had the fewer home games, regardless of seed, would be awarded a home game even if they had an inferior seed.

Under the committee’s recommendation, that would no longer be the case, and the team with the best seed would always be the home team.

Any games against teams with frozen power ratings would not count in the rankings, even if one team’s power rankings aren’t frozen, and forfeits will also be treated differently.

If a team played a legal game, with eligible players, against a team that’s forced to forfeit later in the season — and league procedures call for them to forfeit all prior contests — the games played will still count in the rankings.

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