Humans Need To Return To OSAA Rankings

John L. Braese

EOS will be the first to admit there is no perfect system in discussing rankings/seedings in any Oregon high school sport. Deserving teams are many times left out and state tournaments many times see the two best teams in a division meeting not in the finals, but earlier in the semifinals or maybe even the quarterfinals.

EOS covers a large expanse of area, miles that are filled with schools made up of rural student athletes. We don’t cover any 5A or 6A teams but as seen this year, the problems in the OSAA’s ranking system crosses geographical areas from downtown Portland to downtown Echo.

Simply stated, EOS believes the solution is to bring a human element into the seeding system prior to state playoffs.

Currently, a team plays a season and ultimately, who and where they play in the playoffs is decided by a combination of the Rating Percentage Index and the Colley Rating. To truly grasp the complexity of these two rankings systems, visit, page 121 of 144 pages.

We now live in an AI world. That should not translate to deserving teams being penalized due to a computer’s view of a season. The human element needs to return to the playoffs.

Our neighbors in Washington realized the problem of a straight computer ranking back in 2020. After a series of blunders due to a straight computer system ranking, the WIAA implemented a seeding committee made up of coaches, athletic directors, retired administrators and select media. Football had been using this committee system for the prior two years.

Washington felt the need to move away from straight RPI rankings after a 13 seed won the 2A boys title in 2017 and a No. 11 seed won a state title in 2019. Sound familiar Echo fans?

Another neighbor, Idaho, uses MaxPreps to determine rankings. If you wish a biased explanation of why this system solves all problems, see the company’s statement at Prior to this system, Idaho, like Oregon, used the RPI.

The goal of any system should be the top two teams make the final game. That being the goal, we will take a look at the recently completed state football brackets.

In 1A 6-man, the championship game saw #10 Echo beat #4 Joseph by seven points. According to the computer, this game should have featured #1 Prairie City/Burnt River and #2 Powers. Prairie City/Burnt River fell in the semifinals to Joseph by 14 points while Powers went out in the quarterfinals with a 28-point loss to Echo. The closest game in the playoffs was a six-point victory by Eddyville Charter over Harper Charter in round one.

The 1A 8-man title game was spot on as top seed Lost River took care of second seed Crane by 10 points. As it should be, the closest game came in the semifinals as third seed Myrtle Point fell by six points to Crane.

The 2A championship game saw third seed Lowell overwhelm top seed Weston-McEwen/Griswold by 32 points. Second seed Oakland fell to Lowell in a much closer game in the semifinals as there was a 14-point differential.

The 3A title game saw second seed Cascade Christian down top seed Banks by 10 points. Third seed Dayton fell to Cascade Christian by 12 points in the semifinals, but it should be noted South Umpqua, the 13 seed according to OSAA, finally was knocked out in the semifinals also. The closest game in the playoffs was a one-point win by Cascade Christian in overtime to Vale way back in the quarterfinals.

We now get to the 4A where an OSAA top seed takes a title as Henley downed second seed Marist Catholic. The computers were dead on in this division as the top four teams met in the semifinals before the top two teams advanced to the championship game.

The 5A finds top seed Wilsonville beats third seed Mountain View by six points. Second seed Silverton fell to Mountain View in the semifinals.

Finally, the 6A found four seed Central Catholic beat second seed Tualatin by 28 points in the final game. The top four seeds did make it to the semifinals, but top seed West Linn played Central Catholic much closer, falling by only five points to be knocked out in the semifinals.

So, how did the computer do?

  •  A state title went to the top seed in three of seven games. If your business was wrong 57% of the time, would you continue to do things the same way?
  • According to the rankings, the top team met the second seed in three of seven games. Again, a 43% success rate.

As I do when forgetting to pay the internet bill, blaming the problem on the computer is simple. However, is there a better way?

Complaining about the system while offering no possible solutions is as bad as hiding behind the computer’s choices. That being said, consider the following:

  • Use the current RPI/Colley system but prior to playoffs, introduce a human element. A board, much like Washington’s appears viable. Allow people who actually see games to make final determinations.
  • If staying with the current system, consider introducing an additional component of a human element like the coaches’ poll, media poll or a combination of coaches’/media poll. The current system may tell you wins or losses, but humans will tell you the level of competition they actually witnessed at a game.

Blaming computers is the easy way out. If EOS was incorrect in providing scores, spelling players’ names wrong or telling fans the wrong venue of a game 57% of the time, trusting us would become a thing of the past. Human players are out on the field playing the game, not computers. Determining those players should also involve humans, not just computers.