Playoff bids may come down to power ratings


Mail Tribune
December 01, 2009

When the Oregon School Activities Association's Executive Board approved the use of hybrid leagues for the 2010-14 time block, it left many wondering what might be next.

That next step took shape last Wednesday following a meeting of the OSAA's State Championship Committee, which is charged with developing state playoff formats and policies.

While some athletic directors pitched the notion of an all-inclusive playoff format, the committee instead chose to support a system that maintains the current number of playoff qualifiers — with a little twist.

That twist is one that stands to be debated from now until May 2010, when the committee's final recommendation to the OSAA Executive Board is due.

The committee's current plan is for a power-rating model to be used to determine the automatic qualifiers from each hybrid district and to determine all the "at-large" teams in each classification from the 6A through 2A levels. The committee is recommending that the 1A classification maintain its current system of determining bids to the state playoffs.

The philosophy is similar to those Bowl Championship Series ratings that have been picked apart since their introduction to the college football landscape.

The first question the committee will have to answer is what model will be used to determine such ratings. It has asked the OSAA staff to examine and recommend a power-rating model that can address specific parameters, including — but not limited to — the ability to weigh cross-classification contests, schools that play different numbers of contests, contests involving out-of-state opponents and score differential.

The next question is, once a computer-generated formula has been chosen, how will the qualifiers be placed into the playoff brackets. With 28 total qualifiers at the 6A level — 14 automatic and 14 at-large — does that mean the top four teams will receive first-round byes and then the team with the fifth-highest ranking plays host to the team with the worst rating and so on, regardless of conference affiliation?

Obviously, nothing has been decided, but the list of unknowns facing schools as they prepare for the next time block increases each day.

"I think the disappointing thing is, it's December and there's just so many unknown variables out there," said Eagle Point athletic director Brian Winter. "I think (the OSAA's) getting hit with a lot of questions and they're in a reactive mode on how to fix this. I've got to believe they're a little bit overwhelmed on some levels with what they're trying to accomplish."

That feeling of being overwhelmed trickled down to Winter, who received an update Monday following the committee's meeting last week and found his Eagles in a playoff district that included fellow Southern Oregon 6A/5A hybrid member Ashland, along with Bend, Summit and Mountain View.

"I don't know where that came from," said Winter. "We weren't part of any discussions there. This was just a complete blind-side looking at this 5A hybrid with Bend, Summit and Mountain View."

Winter said he felt all along that Eagle Point and Ashland — which both were denied requests to play down at the 4A level — would likely be placed with the 5A Midwestern League when it came time for determining playoff bids. Even then, he added, it's hard for the local schools to not feel a little burdened by their placement in the 6A-dominated Southern League with Crater, Grants Pass, North Medford, Roseburg and South Medford.

"We're in this hybrid where the 6A schools really don't see us as part of their league," said Winter. "We're just scrambling right now because we don't feel like we're tied to anything. Obviously, we'd like to be part of a league versus playing almost an independent schedule and then coming together for a tournament or something in a power-point system."

It appears in the committee's current plan that schools were grouped together whenever possible at their classification. When current hybrid leagues allowed for three schools or less at a classification, those schools were then placed into a catch-all district.

In the case of Eagle Point and Ashland, the only other 5A teams with leftover hybrid status were Bend, Summit and Mountain View.

At the 6A level, a hybrid district that includes Grant, Lincoln, Redmond, Thurston, Sheldon and South Eugene was formed. In 3A, Cascade Christian and St. Mary's are part of a hybrid district that includes Illinois Valley, Rogue River and Lakeview.

With a couple exceptions, the two schools with the highest rating from each conference or hybrid district automatically qualify for the state playoffs from the 6A through 2A levels in all team sports. The current setup, which the committee supports, involves 28 total qualifiers at the 6A level, 20 in 5A and 4A and 16 at 3A and 2A. In Class 1A, 24 volleyball and basketball teams and 16 football teams qualify.

At-large qualifiers would consist of the highest-rated schools remaining after automatic qualifiers are chosen. The number of at-large teams ranges from 14 at the 6A level to five at the 3A level.

While it will certainly take schools some time to get adjusted to a power-rating system, Winter said that, when done right, it actually can be an effective model to determine playoff qualifiers. He came here from Arizona, where a similar system was used. Winter said he would prefer that method over allowing every team to qualify for the state playoffs, which creates its own issues in regard to economic impact on the schools and lost class time for athletes.

"I like the power-point system if it's set up to reward you based on your strength of schedule and things like that," he said. "There's a couple different ways to do it, but I haven't been privy to how (the OSAA's) wanting to do their power-point system. I think it could be a good system if it's administered correctly."

The next meeting of the State Championship Committee will be Jan. 11, 2010.

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THE EAGLE POINT HIGH cheerleaders will help represent the Rogue Valley at the Holiday Bowl by performing at halftime of the Dec. 30 game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

The group will participate in the parade prior to the game and also perform at SeaWorld. The cheerleaders are currently raising funds for the trip. Those interested in making a donation should contact the high school.

The Holiday Bowl pits the second-place team from the Pac-10 Conference against the third-place team from the Big 12 Conference.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com