Meet the new boss… same as the old boss.

Ah, more complaints about a collegiate athletic post season:

The time has come again to break out the fluffy and extra-absorbent crying towels. Those inevitably heartbroken come Sunday evening are already preparing their manifestos of outrage that a tragically flawed system has denied them their rightful destiny.

Except, “this dance with the illogical has nothing to do with the Bowl Championship Series.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s March Madness!

And with March Madness comes the Ratings Percentage Index, otherwise known as the RPI.  And as Drew Sharp points out in this Detroit Free Press article, there ain’t exactly a whole lot of difference between the RPI and math behind the BCS.

Money quote:

… The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) exposes the vast holes in the hackneyed argument that college football should adopt college basketball’s more precise model in determining its champion.

The BCS and RPI are already mirror images of each other, in that computer infiltration has become a necessary evil in determining who gets the opportunity to play for the championship on the field. And, naturally, that sparks the subsequent cries of systematic inequities or political interference…

Before you can “settle it on the field”, as playoff advocates like to bray, you’ve got to pick who gets to show up in the first place.  That’s why I continue to argue that there are flaws in any playoff format that have to be addressed before anointing it as new and improved over the current state of affairs in D-1 football.

And the bigger you make that playoff field, the more you magnify the flaws:

… But it always seems that the more money involved, the bigger the event becomes and the more fractured and disjointed the entire enterprise becomes.

And within that perspective, crowning a college basketball champion is no less controversial than crowning a football champion.



Filed under BCS/Playoffs

11 responses to “Meet the new boss… same as the old boss.

  1. peacedog

    In the recent Mock Selection Comittee that the NCAA set up, if memory serves several of the partcipants noted that RPI wasn’t really a big factor in the process.

    The Detroit free-press article was meh.


  2. RPI may or may not be a big factor, but how is letting a Selection Committee, mock or otherwise, decide who gets in the Big Dance “settling it on the field”?


  3. Atlchris

    The difference is, with March Madness, you have64 chances tog et it right… With college football, you onl have wo slots to get it right… Which system do yo think has the greatest probability of picking the right teams to play for the National Title?


  4. Seriously? The BCS.

    You start with a much smaller pool, so that the best team or teams from the regular season wind up in the championship game.

    How many times have you seen all the #1 seeds in the basketball tourney survive to the Final Four?


  5. Atlchris

    I’m not sure… I know UNC won it an they were a number 1 as well as Florida… How many times has the BCS failed in producing an undisputed national champion. The NCAA Tourney allows each team to make there case on the court. Think about how many World Series the Braves would have if the same BCS principle applied…Every other sport on every level has one undisputed champ, why does college football have to be different.. Best teams of the regular season? Are you sure? The best teams in the nation are rated in college football in terms of opinion and not fact…


  6. I wasn’t asking if a #1 seed won the tourney, rather, have you ever seen a Final Four comprised of all #1 seeds. I can’t remember one.

    As for your final point, unless you are only going to let conference champs play in a tournament, opinion is going to play some part in who gets in, which is the point of the linked article above. And opinion plays a part in seeding, doesn’t it?

    I’m not sure what you’re arguing when you bring up the Braves. I think the Marlins’ win in ’97 and the Cardinals’ win last year were travesties…


  7. peacedog

    Because they pick a field and let them have at it. They do a pretty damn good job too. While every year there are teams that will protest not making the dance, more often than not their arguments to do so aren’t very good. If the Selection comittee has to anguish over “6-8” spots every year, that’s not that big a deal (the number, of course, will vary from one year to next, and I’m sure it’s grown higher and shrunk lower at times).

    The committee meets *once*, at the end of the regular season proper, and bases their selections on a wealth of data provided to them by the NCAA, all the while observing a number of practices (e.g. Delaney cannot stand up and say “Michigan should make it because X”. If he’s asked questions about Michigan, he can answer them however. That restriction holds true for everyone with conference ties). They do a far better job picking a field than many pollsters do in picking a top 25. And by picking at the end of the year, they remove a number of issues from play. Their selection process is very much a resume based process, for the 30someodd at large berths (the rest being conference titleists).

    Opinion plays a part in seeding, but process does too. The opinions of the comittee members are a far cry from actual opnion polls like the AP, and they are arrived at in a very different way than AP pollsters do. The polls in college basketball have minimal impact on the process.

    As for the seeding, it’s based on much of the same stuff, with certain geographic considerations coming into play. They do a pretty good job with this as well. Mistakes are made, sure (UNCC getting that #14 the year we were #3 was absurd, and they proved it), but it’s hard to argue with the selection comittee’s long term results. The cindarella stories (ultimate or otherwise) are dwarfed by the success of the “giants”. And yet it’s pretty clear why a 4, 8, or even 16 team tournament wouldn’t come close to getting it right. A 32 team tournament wouldn’t either, unless we rovoked a number of automatic bids (which is a reasonable suggestion, but it’s been really fun with them thus far).

    Nobody is going to claim that the selection comittee doesn’t have a difficult and important job, and that this committee introduces further human error into the equation. But “opinion” doesn’t play nearly the same role that it does in college football. There’s not much of a meaningful comparison to make between the selection committee and the BCS.


  8. Well, if you’re arguing that the current polling setup for D-1 football should be junked for something better, like the committee approach, I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all. I’ve always thought the polls are flawed.

    That being said, I don’t think it affects my main point, namely, that there is a degree of subjectivity in the basketball tourney, just as there is in the BCS.

    There’s no way to talk about a playoff “settling things on the field” in a pure sense unless either (1) only conference champs are eligible, or (2) every D-1 team makes it in. And neither of those are likely approaches to a football playoff.


  9. Atlchris

    You’re right Senator.. Some opinion is involved in seeding… But in college football.. It’s almost completely opinion…


  10. peacedog

    “That being said, I don’t think it affects my main point, namely, that there is a degree of subjectivity in the basketball tourney, just as there is in the BCS.”

    Once again, those degrees are far apart. You’re treating them as equivalent. They’re not even close.


  11. peacedog, it’s not just the seedings that involve a degree of subjectivity; as I mentioned in another post today, the initial pairings and the brackets for March Madness are also made subjectively.

    I don’t think things are as far apart as you make them out to be.