Power points tweaked yet again

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of power points by the Arizona Interscholastic Association in order to determine which teams make the playoffs out of the 213 member schools participating in football.

There’s anywhere from 28-35 teams in each division, and there are seven divisions: 1A (which is 8-man football), 2A, 3A, 4A-II, 4A-I, 5A-II, and 5A-I which encompasses the 27 schools in the state with the largest enrollments or those schools which have traditionally competed in the toughest division (like Brophy Prep or Salpointe Catholic) even though they have smaller enrollments.

Well, in previous years, the AIA used to just have a set number of qualifying teams from each division’s conference make the playoffs, regardless of record. So, if you were in conference B of the 2A division, and your conference was obligated to send 3 teams, if team #3 has a 2-8 record, but team #4 is 0-10, guess who’s going? (Note, this actually happened in 2007 in the 1A conference… go here to see what happened.)

However, in more recent years, the AIA has decided to use Power Points – a decision soundly derided by fans across the state (and several coaches). The AIA’s brain trust came up with the following methodology:

50 points per win, 5 points for each win by opponents if the opponents are same division or higher.

On paper, it seems like a workable plan. In action, the AIA fell flat because they failed to consider several things:

  1. if your team resides in a strong region, you will get the benefit of those region members’ wins
  2. power points reward teams in large conferences for losses more than they reward wins by teams from small conferences, regardless of the opponent’s quality, conference, or division.
  3. they don’t take into account schedule strength
  4. (and this is the killer) only wins over AIA opponents gain “win” points, so a win over an out of state school gains a team zero, and all the wins by THAT team also net zero points.

So, this year the AIA came up with a “much better system”. First, they came up with a “matrix” of point values (you can already see this is a problem – IF YOU HAVE TO CREATE A MATHEMATICAL MATRIX TO EXPLAIN SOMETHING, IT SHOULD BE A SIGN THAT IT WON’T WORK) wherein a team gains a specific number of points for a win depending on the opponent’s division.

The number of points is the same for a win over a team in your division and one division lower. For every division lower than that (two divisions, three divisions) subtract 5 points from the win points (so, a 4A-II over a 4A-II nets 50 points, but a 4A-II over a 2A nets 40 points). For every division HIGHER than yours add 5 points (a 4A-II over a 5A-I nets 65 points, since 5A-I is three divisions higher).

Ah, but now come the “opponent points” or “victory points” – each win by your opponents nets you 5 points if their win is over a team in their same division or one higher/lower, otherwise subtract .5 points (yes, half a point…) for each division lower than the set threshold, and add .5 points for each division higher than the threshold. 5A schools (both 5A-II and 5A-I) get the shaft here because they are the highest divisions, so they can’t get any more than 5 victory points for their opponents’ wins.

So what happens if a team is not an AIA member (like say, a team from Juarez, Mexico, or maybe one from Utah, California, or Nevada)? Your Athletic Director must petition the AIA to recognize that team as a “valid” opponent and the AIA must then label them as a comparable division (like maybe a 3A school) based on the school’s enrollment and current state division – New Mexico, for example, has a divisional breakdown similar to Arizona’s so that would not take as much time as a team from California which has super-conferences and super-regions.

All in all, it sounds like a lot of work, right? It is. And the AIA doesn’t just stop there – it claims it can do “automatic” updates of the Power Points on its website after every weekend slate of games based on the outcomes. Problem – AIA doesn’t actually go out and gather the scores, it asks that the head coaches or representatives of the home team input the final results to the website. And the smaller schools are notorious for NOT doing so in a timely manner.

My question – if this power point system is SO GAWD-DARNED GOOD, why doesn’t the NCAA use it? I mean, that’s the cream of the crop – the top dawgs of the amateur football spectrum, right?

Maybe because the NCAA already knows that IT DOESN’T WORK. The NCAA uses a Selection Committee for Divisions I-AA, II, and III to determine seedings and teams eligible for the playoffs. While the AIA obviously doesn’t have the manpower to do so (yet), it should look to other ways to determine seedings. I’ve come up with one (link here), but I would love to be on a Selection Committee as well. The question is, who else would – or should – be on that committee? That, I don’t have an answer to.