A year removed from the FHSAA’s decision to switch to the RPI rankings to determine playoff seeding, coaches in the area have now seen it play out and are mostly pleased.
The system, which takes into account strength of schedule, opponents’ strength of schedule and opponents’ opponents’ strength of schedule, replaces last year’s point system, which gave greater point values to wins or losses against stronger teams.
It’s been an evolving process from when the automatic bids went to the top two district finishers. That was tweaked with last year’s point system and now the RPI equation.
DeSoto County was affected the most by the change after reaching the playoffs last year. The Bulldogs finished 6-4 and second in the district, but one spot out of the eight-team postseason cutoff.
It’s not a perfect system, nor will such an equation every exist, but it seems to make the most sense. If the FHSAA looks to tweak it, DeSoto coach Bumper Hay would like to see a stronger emphasis on a team’s record and less on opponents’ opponents’ record.
“It is what it is, I kind of knew that going in,” Hay said. “I like last year’s (model). I know it had it’s kinks, but there’s no perfect system. It’s hard for me to knock it with out really sitting down and looking at it, but every other system I’ve coached with, we’d be in the playoffs.”
The RPI system placed four area teams in the playoffs with Venice, Port Charlotte, Charlotte and Lemon Bay moving on. The coaches feel that, for the most part, the system does a better job of placing the best teams in the playoffs.
“Obviously we like it,” Charlotte’s Binky Waldrop said. “It seems to get the teams that deserve to be there, there. Two years ago it was kind of a wild west. It makes a lot of sense the way their doing it now. It kind of promotes you to play harder teams.”
Under last year’s model, Charlotte would be on the outside looking in as the third team in the district this year.
Waldrop has seen plenty of playoff systems in his 25 years at the helm of the Tarpon program and likes what this one brings. Venice coach John Peacock and Port Charlotte’s Jordan Ingman agree. There are also no complaints from Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell as his team won the final three games of the season to get the final spot at 3-7.
Ingman’s Pirates missed the cut last year, but would’ve had a strong chance to make it under the new system. This year they finished as the second-best team in the region with Charlotte close behind. That was aided by a strong strength of schedule with four teams from District 6A-12 making the playoffs.
Ingman’s only complaint is that he wishes the field would be reseeded after the first round. Even as the No. 2 team in the region, the Pirates could potentially have to travel to No. 1 Palmetto in Round 2, since they are locked in as the top at-large team.
“The point of the playoffs is to put the best teams against the best teams,” Ingman said. “I think this system works. I think it’s done a good job of eliminating bad teams in the playoffs. It really benefited our district because a lot of us wouldn’t have had hope going into the season otherwise.”