Commentary: WIAA’s new seeding system uses RPI as a tool only

Paul Valencia reminds readers of the changes made by the WIAA for seeding state playoff brackets for all team sports, using RPI as an aid for the seeding committees to use

Seeding committees — people — will determine playoff brackets for all team sports this school year

Week 5 of high school football kicked off Thursday night, so, as we pass the halfway point of the regular season, it is as good a time as any to go over some reminders that a lot has changed in all team sports in regard to postseason play.

Last week, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association released its first Rating Percentage Index of the football season. 

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

There were some miscues. One of Clark County’s teams wasn’t even listed. No problem. That was corrected within an hour or so. And even this week, with the second RPI release, at least one of Clark County’s teams has the wrong record. (One game is counted twice.)

These things happen. They used to happen in basketball, the sport that first used RPI, and it will likely continue to happen. That’s one of the reasons the WIAA releases the rankings every week. Transparency. Get the info out there. If a coach or an athletic director sees a mistake, contact the WIAA.

The records only have to be correct in football after Week 10.

And even then, there will be plenty of oversight.

This week, the WIAA released the RPI standings for all the other fall team sports, as well — volleyball, girls soccer, and slowpitch softball.

That’s new.

In fact, the WIAA plans on using RPI as a tool to help seed the state playoffs in all team sports this school year.

The key word here is tool.

RPI has been used for a few years to seed the state basketball tournaments. No, not as a tool to seed them, but to actually seed the tournaments. Once the 16 basketball teams qualified for state, the WIAA went to the RPI to seed each team based on the ranking. Simple as that, the basketball brackets were formed.

There were some hiccups along the way, and adjustments to the formula were made, but the WIAA used the numbers, those numbers only, to seed the tournaments.

Starting this year, RPI will be used as a tool for all sports. But it will not be the be-all, end-all determining factor for seedings. Just an aid to help the people on the seeding committees.

We remember the football seeding committees from 2018 and 2019, right? Coaches, athletic directors, former administrators and even some in the media got together after Week 10 and seeded the 16-team brackets.

Starting this academic year, there will be committees for all team sports. 

It is important to note that the committees will not determine state playoff teams. All teams must qualify. Once the teams have qualified, that’s when the committees will seed the tournaments.

The committees can use a number of ways to come up with the brackets. Computer-generated rankings besides the RPI, media polls, coaches polls. Heck, even the eyeball test.

That human factor is important, too, because not all computer-generated rankings are the same.

Graham-Kapowsin, for example, is 5-0 after winning Thursday night. The RPI has G-K ranked No. 14 among the Class 4A programs. Ask just about any human who watches high school football in this state, and they will tell you G-K should be No. 1 or No. 2. 

By Week 10, if G-K is, say, 10-0, and the RPI has not made a significant jump, the committee just might put G-K in at No. 1 or No. 2.

Tumwater is another one. Tumwater’s lone loss came to Class 6A Oregon power Central Catholic, in overtime. We all know Tumwater is not No. 7 in Washington 2A.

So instead of worrying about where your team sits in RPI, just use the weekly RPI releases as a way to get a conversation started. Trust me, it’s fun to talk about high school sports.

And, unlike college football, no committee decides which teams make the playoffs. You think your team is a lot better than its ranking? Well, your team will get a chance to prove it on the field. Not in some computer.

This goes for all team sports, too.

Congrats Camas

A salute to Jack Hathaway, the head coach at Camas. He picked up his first win as Camas’ coach in a win over Battle Ground on Thursday. Yes, it sounds weird that Camas picked up its first win in Week 5. But if you have been following, Camas has played the toughest non-league schedule I’ve seen in my 20 years of covering high school sports in Clark County.

Now let’s have some fun theorizing, some what-ifs regarding Camas, the defending state champions from 2019.

The Papermakers improved to 1-4 overall, 1-0 in the 4A Greater St. Helens League on Thursday. Camas has two more non-league games, against Mountain View, always a quality program, and mighty Tumwater. 

Looking at the scores of the four losses, Camas certainly has the potential to win those two games. But we also know it could go the other way for the Papermakers. For argument sakes, let’s split the difference and say Camas goes 1-1 in those games to be 2-5 heading into Week 8.

If Camas beats Skyview and Union, the Papermakers would win the league title at 3-0 and 4-5 overall. The Papermakers would then have to win a state qualifying game in Week 10, but if they do that, Camas would be in at 5-5. 

Where do you seed a 5-5 Camas team that has lost to the best of the best in the Northwest but wins the 4A Greater St. Helens League? Glad I’m not on the seeding committee.

(Oh, and please do not take this as a prediction of any kind. Union is on a roll. Skyview thinks it has a shot to win the league, as well. Just wanted to point out that Camas is still good, despite its record.)

Back to RPI

While there are some mysterious placements for teams in the rankings, by and large, the best teams in the state are right up there. So let’s give a salute to any top-10 teams from the Greater St. Helens Leagues in the latest rankings.

Football: Ridefield is No. 7 in 2A. (Kelso is at No. 8 in 3A and hosts Mountain View tonight in the game of the week for the 3A GSHL.)  As of this writing, no 4A team from the county is in the top 10. My guess is Union will be the highest RPI team in the region once Skyview inputs its loss from last week. 

Volleyball: Two-time defending state champion Ridgefield is No. 1 in Class 2A. Columbia River is No. 5. And Mark Morris of Longview comes in at No. 6. Camas is No. 5 in Class 4A, and Skyview is No. 10. 

Girls Soccer: Camas is No. 2 in 4A soccer. Kelso is No. 9 in 3A. Columbia River is No. 4 in 2A and R.A. Long is No. 9.

Slowpitch Softball: Union is No. 3 in Class 4A, Battle Ground is No. 8, and Skyview is No. 10. Kelso is No. 1 in 3A/2A. 

There are no Class 1A teams from Clark County in the top 10 of RPI.

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