ROBBINSVILLE – Just one more vote by the NJSIAA Executive Committee will usher in the second new high school football playoff formula in as many years, the new Opponent Strength Index.
The OSI would replace the Born Power Index, which became mired in controversy last year when the formula was not revealed, and WCTC Sports’ analysis found it rewarded teams with higher seeds for beating opponents by larger margins.
The committee voted 35-2 with one abstention to approve the change on the first reading. A final vote could come at the Executive Committee’s next gathering on June 5.
The two “no” votes came from a pair of South jersey Athletic Directors: Tony Mitchell of Paul VI in Haddonfield, and Egg Harbor’s Michael Pellegrino
The Opponent Strength Index would be calculated similarly to the Born Power Index, according to Westwood Athletic Director Dan Vivino, who gave the committee a presentation on the formula. However, the ratings of opponents would be used to determine playoff qualification and seeding, rather than a team’s own rating.
That would prevent running up the score. For example, if Team A scored more points in a game, their rating would go up. But that rating doesn’t determine seeding. The ratings of their opponents, averaged out over the number of games played, would count.
That change was important to the NJSIAA. Counsel Steve Goodell said the Association had two requirements for the 2019 formula: that margin of victory not be used to directly seed teams, and that all formulas be transparent.
The OSI accomplishes both goals.
The United Power Ranking will remain, and even the balance between OSI (replacing BPI) and power points will stay 60-to-40 percent in favor of the OSI.
What is the OSI?
It’s very similar to the Born Power Index. Here’s how it works:
In 2019, each team will start with their BPI from the end of the 2018 season. That number will be reduced or increased by 1/3 based on a median point of 60. Therefore, a team rated 90, which is 30 points above the median, would be reduced by 1/3 – or 10 points – and become an 80. Similarly, a team rated 30 would increase by 10 points to 40.
This is intended to lessen the reliance on “historical” data, giving less weight to last season’s results.
The BPI used two different formulas during the season. Early on, games counted more, but that was to give less weight to the previous season. This is addressed in the median reduction or increase. As a result, OSI will use just one formula all year.
In an example where Team A is a 90 and Team B is a 70, the difference is 20. If Team A wins by 30, it beat the projection by 10. That number is divided by 5 to get the increase or decrease. So Team A becomes a 92, and Team B becomes a 68.
But Team A is not ranked on its 92. It is ranked on the 68 points it would receive for a win, or 34 for a loss (half the value).
At the end of the season, all the points it receives are averaged out.
But does it promote sportsmanship?
In a word: yes.
Consider the above example. Team A won by 30, which dropped Team B by 2 points. That earns Team A a 68 instead of a 70.
Had Team A only won by 20, there would be no change, and Team A would have received 70 points.
Therefore, winning by fewer points is more beneficial to Team A than winning by more points.
While the proposal passed overwhelmingly, two South Jersey Athletic Directors expressed their concerns.
Paul VI Athletic Director Tony Mitchell didn’t understand why a change needed to be made so soon after last year’s major overhaul, and suggested the same system be kept in place so the 2019 proposal could be studied more. Vivino and Goodell both explained that the margin of victory and “spread” being directly tied to seeding had to be eliminated.
Mitchell then had issues with other changes, including a plan to “snake” brackets.
In 2018, the Top 16 teams in the North and South halves of the state were broken into traditional sections of 8 by Northing numbers, geographically. The new plan would snake the brackets to get a greater competitive balance.
Vivino said in some sections in 2018, the Top 4 of the 16 teams ended up in one section, while another section had the next four.
The snaking concept is similar to what’s used by the NCAA basketball tournament, where the Top 4 teams in the tournament are the Number One seeds, teams five through eight are the Number Two seeds, etc.
Egg Harbor Twp AD Michael Pellegrino wondered out loud whether the playoffs should simply be expanded to all teams, citing other sports where all teams, or even 80%, make the postseason.
The full plan will be made public once it gets final approval from the Executive Committee, and is expected to be released by the NJSIAA in June.