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COMMENTARY: MPA’s Heal point system needs to be reconfigured or scrapped

first_img Mike MandellMike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected] MPA approves golf, XC, field hockey, soccer; football, volleyball moved to spring – September 10, 2020 Ellsworth runners compete in virtual Boston Marathon – September 16, 2020 Latest posts by Mike Mandell (see all) Hospice volunteers help families navigate grief and find hope – September 12, 2020center_img Every two weeks, Mike Mandell gives his thoughts on the sports scene in Ellsworth, Hancock County and beyond.At the end of every regular season, athletes and coaches at certain schools all over Maine wait eagerly to know where they’ll go for their first playoff games. For those teams, June is an exciting month and a chance to compete for a state title.The playoffs, as we all know, are played with the end goal of crowning a champion. To do so, playoff brackets need starting points. In professional sports, these starting points are decided through divisional standings. In college sports, they’re decided through committees of people deemed to be “experts” on the teams in question. In high school sports, they can be either of the two — or anything in between.Some governing bodies in high school athletics use mathematical formulas to make this determination. The Maine Principals’ Association is one of these governing bodies, and it makes its calculations through what is known as the Heal point system. It’s a system that tries to adjust for the fact that some teams play more challenging schedules than other teams, which is a reasonable goal for any mathematical formula.In far too many instances, though, the system has produced results that don’t make sense. Teams that don’t deserve playoff spots are getting in ahead of teams that do because the system deems them to have played more difficult schedules. A look at how Heal points are calculated tells us why.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textTo get its initial calculations, the Heal point system first calculates what’s known as the preliminary index. This index awards a team 42 points for a Class AA win, 40 for a Class A win, 38 for a class B win, 36 for a Class C win and 34 for a Class D win. The result is divided by the total number of games played.Let’s use the Bucksport softball team as an example. The Golden Bucks won all 16 games in the regular season this year. Twelve of those wins were against Class C teams, but Bucksport also had two wins over a Class B team and two over a Class D team. When we add those numbers and divide the result by 16, we’re left with a preliminary index of 36.That part makes sense, but here’s where it gets tricky: The method used to determine seeding is used by the tournament index rather than the preliminary index. To calculate the tournament index, we must add up the preliminary indices of every team it defeated and divide that number by the number of games the team played.By adding this step to the process, the Heal point system takes a turn for the worse. This is because the second adjustment that is made for strength of schedule causes the tournament index to overcorrect, a phenomenon that has recently produced bizarre results such as these:In softball, 4-10 Fort Kent earned the No. 8 seed ahead of 8-8 Washington Academy and 7-9 Calais in Class C North. This gave Fort Kent a home playoff game.In boys’ soccer, 5-7 Vinalhaven finished two spots ahead of 9-5 Searsport in Class D South. This forced Searsport to play against the No. 1 seed in the second round instead of the No. 2 seed.In baseball, 1-13 Machias finished ahead of 6-8 Ashland in Class D North and would likely have made the playoffs had it won another game.In girls’ tennis, 12-0 Orono finished as the No. 3 seed in Class C North and had to travel to the Canadian border for a match against No. 2 Fort Kent, which was 8-4.These are just a few examples of some of the headaches the current format has caused. In each of these cases, a team that deserved a higher seed was denied one because of the formula the Heal point system uses to generate its results.When a team is incorrectly seeded, it affects everyone. Not only does it help or hurt the team in question, but it also means other teams will get seeded higher or lower than they should be as a result of the mistake. The best teams should be getting easier roads to the finals, and the teams that sneak in by the skin of their teeth should be getting harder ones. With the current system, that’s not what’s happening.Ultimately, an evaluation must be made regarding how crucial a system that accounts for strength of schedule to level the playing field is. If such a system is deemed important, perhaps getting rid of the tournament index is a better option. Doing so would reward teams with tougher schedules without making win-loss records irrelevant in the process.If the Heal point system is going to stay, it should be changed to reward teams in a manner that can correctly determine which ones are most fit to compete for championships. That’s what the playoffs are about, and if the system used to generate playoff matchups isn’t accomplishing that, it isn’t serving its purpose at all. Latest Posts Biolast_img read more

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