Football playoffs: What to know about the new RPI ranking system

High school football RPI

KUSA - ***UPDATE: On Sunday afternoon, the 4A football bracket was removed from the Colorado High School Activities Association website due to what CHSAA called a "discrepancy." When it was reposted online, Loveland was no longer listed as a playoff team. The article has been altered to reflect the changes.***

Let's face it, there's a reason not all of us majored in mathematics. It's complicated enough by itself, but when you try to factor in sports, the equations can be far less forgiving.

This year, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) introduced the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI, to create a more objective process of deciding who makes playoffs.

"[The CHSAA membership] wanted some consistency among the qualification formats in team sports," CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said. "This provides that. RPI gives you the same way to qualify in football as you would in volleyball as you would in baseball and basketball and so on."

Each team is given a score, and at the end of the season, the top 16 -- including conference champions -- will advance to the state tournament. Here's how the equation breaks down:

  • 25 percent of the score is based on a team's winning percentage
  • 50 percent depends on that team's opponents' winning percentage
  • 25 percent comes from that team's opponents' opponents' winning percentage

"I was a math teacher for a long time, and any time you start adding any percentages, you have to take a good hard look at what's valued," Eaglecrest head coach Mike Schmitt said.

According to the equation, the strength of schedule carries the highest weight of a team's score. That has become a hot topic among parents, coaches and players.

"I don't think it's an answer-all in one year, and I know there's a lot of frustration as with any new system that you have in place, but I do think there are some benefits to it," Schmitt said.

Eaglecrest finished the regular season undefeated, and as of Sunday, is officially bound for the playoffs.

"This RPI makes everybody be a little bit better," Schmitt said. "It makes everybody see all the good teams across the state, and I think it's going to benefit a lot of teams know where they stand, and how much more work they have to put it. It definitely helped us to improve."

When the final RPIs were posted Sunday morning, it appeared Loveland (9-1) had squeaked into the top 16 in the 4A football classification, meaning the defending runner-up would have a shot at returning to the title game. Instead, the brackets were pulled and reviewed due to what CHSAA called a "discrepancy." When it was replaced, Loveland was listed in the RPI rankings as the No. 17 team, meaning their season was over. A 6-4 Vista Ridge replaced the Indians in the 16th spot.

"We thought we had a tough schedule this year. A couple of teams faltered early that we played, but we still played a lot of tough teams in the northern part of Colorado," Loveland head coach Wayne McGinn said prior to the final RPI rankings being released. "I'll feel for my seniors because they don't have a next year."

Another concern about the new ranking system is the potential loss of rivalry games that have deep roots in the state. With the current RPI weighing the opponent's winning percentage the heaviest, there is an argument teams will elect not to play their rivals, because it could hurt their own RPI score.

CHSAA says the new system will be a trial and error experience, but ultimately, this is a superior process for deciding post-season play compared to the old wildcard point system.

"It's not as easily manipulated as the old wildcard system was. As a matter of fact, it's virtually harder to manipulate this, so it's a better process," Borgmann said. "[The RPI system] is also going to show, the fact of the matter is, you may have a team that's 8-2 that doesn't get into the playoffs, and that's a tough piece."

That was evident on Sunday with the release of the final RPI rankings, and consequently, playoff-bound teams. At the 5A level, Fountain-Fort Carson and Bear Creek will make the post-season, after each finishing the regular season 3-7. Legend (5-5), Fossil Ridge (7-3), Doherty (8-2) and Lakewood (6-4) will not advance.

Once the RPI system was voted in by the legislative council prior to this season, rules state it has to stay in effect for at least 12 months. CHSAA will be able to make potential changes only after the current season concludes.

"Are we giving too much credence on your opponent's winning percentage, or are we not giving enough on your winning percentage? We're going to look at those [concerns] and I think we will come up with some answers after we've been through it a year," Borgmann said.

Here are the top 16 teams from the 3A, 4A and 5A classifications, according to the final RPI rankings released by CHSAA Sunday morning. A link to the playoff brackets is posted below each list.

5A Football:

  1. Valor Christian
  2. Pomona
  3. Regis Jesuit
  4. Grandview
  5. Mullen
  6. Cherry Creek
  7. Eaglecrest
  8. Highlands Ranch
  9. Columbine
  10. Ralston Valley
  11. Legacy
  12. Chaparral
  13. Fairview
  14. Cherokee Trail
  15. Fountain-Fort Carson
  16. Bear Creek

Bracket: http://bit.ly/2eMFgIb

4A Football:

  1. Denver South
  2. Pine Creek
  3. Ponderosa
  4. Chatfield
  5. Broomfield
  6. Pueblo West
  7. Fruita Monument
  8. Windsor
  9. Monarch
  10. Pueblo South
  11. Rampart
  12. Mesa Ridge
  13. Grand Junction Central
  14. Heritage
  15. Greeley West 
  16. Vista Ridge

Bracket: http://bit.ly/2frDFeD

3A Football:

  1. Discovery Canyon
  2. Pueblo East
  3. Palisade
  4. Lewis-Palmer
  5. Silver Creek
  6. Fort Morgan
  7. Longmont
  8. Palmer Ridge
  9. Holy Family
  10. Rifle
  11. Mead
  12. Durango
  13. Conifer
  14. Evergreen
  15. Skyview
  16. Erie

Bracket: http://bit.ly/2f7wibu

Editor's note: The video posted above first aired Friday evening during the 5 P.M. newscast, prior to the final RPI rankings being released. Also worth noting, the RPI rankings do not determine seeding in the playoff brackets. CHSAA is expected to release those brackets Sunday morning following a committee meeting.

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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