Sometimes, the wheels of progress turn slowly and a little push is needed to get them moving faster.
That’s basically what happened last month when a local engineer, who was also a frustrated high school sports fan, decided to give the state’s prep governing body a little push by taking his case for changing the established power-point formula to the local media after feeling his issue wasn’t being addressed in a timely manner.
And now, thanks to his persistence, there should be a more level playing field during the spring high school sports competition. An error, he maintained, in the way the power-ranking formula was set up was giving an advantage to teams that played more games.
That would definitely have a negative effect on smaller schools in rural areas that aren’t able to schedule as many games due to travel constraints.
So the Arizona Interscholastic Association, reluctantly bowing to the fact that there might be a problem with the system it had been using, agreed at the March 19 meeting to modify its method in time to be able to use it when determining which teams will make it into the spring sports playoffs, which roll around later this month.
Since any kind of revision would normally be made at the end of a season, it shows the perceived urgency when the organization agreed to make an immediate change.
According to one report, the old system may have been the cause of some high school teams failing to make it into the playoffs, going back almost two years. It was also evidently affecting the way teams were seeded once they got to the playoffs.
In fact, the engineer, John Carrieres, who discovered the flaw in the current system insists there may have been as many as 17 teams in basketball, soccer, and girls volleyball that should have made it into the state tournaments, but didn’t.
With the change in the formulation proposed by Carrieres, and validated by an Arizona State University math professor, teams should now by evaluated based not on the number of games they play, but on the results of those they did play and the strength of their schedules.
While insisting that the formula used up to this point was not flawed, and has been working the way it was intended, the AIA will be able to more accurately assess whether the new system is better after the spring sports season concludes. Members of the appropriate committees have agreed to get together again to analyze the results before the new school year begins.
In the meantime, they are considering proposals to further level the playing field in other areas of high school sports activity, including considering letting schools change classifications based on their ability to compete instead of size; changes in the eligibility transfer rules for students changing schools; and a better system to factor in private and charter schools.
But that’s a story for another day, sports fans. Let’s take one headache at a time.