The MIAA football committee voted 11-1 Thursday to recommend a change to the football power ranking formula that would give more weight to a team’s win-loss record and less weight to schedule strength.
If the adjustment is accepted by the Tournament Management Committee, it could help avoid situations like last season where West Bridgewater was eliminated from the Division 7 playoffs despite a 6-1 record when the bids were announced.
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Right now, the power ranking is a 50-50 split between a team’s own value (the results of their games) and their opponent’s value (how every team that plays it performs in their other games). The proposed change would make it a 60-40 split, weighted by a team’s own worth.
Technically, there is no specific win-loss component in the formula; A team’s own score can be viewed as an ongoing point difference tracker, updated every week. But wins, which always generate positive point differentials, would still carry more weight in this proposal.
The change was proposed by Milton High’s Steve Dembowski, the coaches’ representative on the Football Committee.
“In some cases,” Dembowski said, “the beef of the coaches was that when their league is having a bad year (it hurts them). Ashland in the Tri-Valley League was a good example of a school that had a good starter had season but got a pretty low seed because their league wasn’t playing well and there were teams that benefited a lot from being in good leagues like the Hockomock or the Merrimack Valley or the Catholic Conference where teams with two Winning could have qualified, we allowed it.”
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Last June, the Football Committee recommended the introduction of a three-win minimum for all playoff teams, concerned that in a sport with a small sample size (maximum of eight regular-season games), this would undermine the “strength of the schedule” component of the Formula would allow too many underperforming teams to qualify simply because they played (and lost) against good opponents. This recommendation was adopted by the TMC.
The new statewide playoff schedule was adopted for most team sports this school year. In soccer, the 16 teams in the power rankings for each of the eight divisions qualify for the playoffs. The formula did a good job of predicting playoff success; a breakdown of the 16 teams that made it to the finals – five 1st seed, four 2nd seed, two 3rd seed, two 4th seed, one 5th seed, one 6th seed and one 6th seeded team 10 seeds. (Randolph, the only escape, won the Div. 8 crown as the 10th seed.)
However, 20 teams with winning records were eliminated from the playoffs, including natives West Bridgewater (6-1 in Div. 7), Quincy (4-3 in Div. 2), Southeastern Regional (3-2 in Div. 5) and Holbrook /Avon (5-2 in Division 7). Five others with winning records made it only because one or more teams in the top 16 in their division did not achieve the three-win minimum required to qualify.
Of the Unlucky 20, only Worcester Tech (7-1 but seeded 27th in Div. 5) had a better record than West Bridgewater. Others fell by the wayside with brilliant records – Div. 2 Algonquin (6-2), Div. 3 Revere (6-2), Div. 7 Drury (6-1) and Div. 7 Ayer Shirley (6-2).
“We just want to put more emphasis on winning when it comes to those backend qualifiers,” said Dembowski. “Ultimately we want the best teams in the tournament. I think the formula did that for the top but when we get down it gets a little patchy, especially when those places are really competitive.”
“I think the 60-40 play is going to be something important, not just for football but for everyone,” said committee member Jay Costa, Shrewsbury’s sporting director. “Speaking to some other sports, some people on different committees say that[putting a little more emphasis on wins and losses]would make a big difference in some decision-making processes with coaching.”
The Football Committee also voted 12-0 to leave the winning margin cap at 14 points and not increase it. Each sport has its own MOV cap above which overscoring does not have a major impact on a team’s power rankings.
Dembowski said: “We don’t want to put football coaches in a situation where they have to manage the game to score (more) when the game is (already) in hand. Fourteen (points) is fine.”