Heads or tails?
We start football games by gathering captains at midfield for a coin toss, and the beauty of the process lies in the simplicity of a random flip.
Call it in the air.
There has to be an easier way to seed the brackets for Section 1 tournament play. Right now, we have small committees of educators who nervously wade into a sea of numbers at seeding meetings that take place near the end of each season and routinely go into overtime.
It’s a thankless job.
Getting the ice hockey brackets right on Wednesday took nine-plus hours and three revisions. The previous week, officials spent a similar amount of time computing the seeds for the boys and girls basketball tournaments.
Mistakes are common, and changes have a domino effect.
“If the information we need is correct, it should take no time at all,” said Somers athletic director Roman Catalino, the longtime chair of the Section 1 boys basketball committee.
The answer is not quarantining the results for 48 hours to double check the facts. A long outdated system relies on coaches submitting a pen-and-paper report that includes opponents and scores from each game. Not all of the information comes in on a timely basis. And while it would be almost impossible to prove, the potential for manipulation exists with this system.
Conveniently forgetting one game could result in an easier path to a championship if nobody takes notice.
There used to be more eyes in the room. In the fall, Section 1 decided the coaches who serve on the seeding committees as conference reps were no longer needed. When the brackets are finalized, participating schools are contacted before Section 1 executive Jennifer Simmons releases them to the media.
Each sport has a handbook that spells out qualifying standards and seeding procedures. The pages read like Fortran. There is one formula used to determine whether a team has qualified for the postseason. There is a separate although similar formula to determine the seeding index.
No system is perfect, but that is needlessly redundant.
Each playoff team must meet a qualifying standard. Teams get four points for a win and two points for a tie. Every game played, regardless of the opponent, figures into the equation. Teams gain two bonus points for playing a Section 1 team with a winning percentage of at least .750 and one bonus point for playing a Section 1 team with a winning percentage of at least .500.
Those bonus points often become hurdles for the committees.
Basketball teams need to accumulate 29 points in 18 games to qualify. Hockey teams need to pick up 32 points in 20 games to be part of the playoffs. And once they’re in, the deck is essentially reshuffled.
Determining a new winning percentage is the first step. Only the games played against competition from the various associations within New York state figure into this computation. A team might’ve finished with a record of 8-11, but if three of those losses were to teams from Connecticut, it’s considered a .500 team and opponents pick up a bonus point.
Next, a seeding index is determined.
It’s again four points for a win, two points for a tie. Add in the bonus points for playing in-state teams with .750 and .500 winning percentages, and divide by the number of games played against New York opponents. There’s your number.
Somebody put a lot of thought into this.
“To me, it doesn’t make any sense that you get four points for beating the best team in the section and four points for beating the worst team in the section,” said Pelham hockey coach Ed Witz, who in past years served on the seeding committee as a conference rep.
Bonus points do not always make up the difference.
Objectivity is the goal of the current system and the end result for better or worse is a ranking of teams, which are then placed accordingly in the brackets.
“It’s not the crunching of the numbers; that is the easy part,” said Pawling athletic director John Bellucci, who spent 17 years teaching math and is a co-chairman of the hockey committee. “We need a 21st century vehicle that allows us to see game results. If there’s a game in Nova Scotia, we should be able to get a final score at the buzzer.”
There must be some kind of app for that.
“We’re getting closer,” Catalino said “We just have to find something we can use.”
In a perfect world, the NYSPHSAA would develop the app, but the organization already has a deal in place with MaxPreps that allows member schools to publish results, statistics, rosters and photos. Only a small number utilize the setup. The app would have to be easy to use and come with a Section 1 directive to input final scores on a timely basis.
Participation would have to be policed.
Chasing down accurate records from teams around the state is a major issue. Having a web site with game-by-game results and standings would also provide transparency and reduce the temptation to manipulate the numbers. At the very least, it’s time for Section 1 to get online with more than game schedules and directions to schools. Google the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference if you want to feel pangs of jealousy.
The cost of hiring a developer to come up with a simple app to report scores might be prohibitive.
On second thought, don’t we have some Intel finalists around here? I’m betting there’s a kid someplace in Section 1 capable of coding a solution in study hall on a smartphone.
Maybe the fix isn’t that simple, but it’s certainly within reach.