UPDATE: Tuesday evening, several of the NJSIAA powers-that-be claim that they were "misled" by Bill Born, and the use of point spreads in his ratings. Born denies the accusation, saying he answered all their questions, during hearings about whether to implement the BPI. 

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - The NJSIAA could not have developed a worse system for for choosing, and seeding teams for its football playoffs if it had deliberately set out to do so.  

But what makes the matter worse is that the NJSIAA, like many governmental organizations, has taken a parochial approach to claims for transparency from the very beginning of the season.  “Trust the process” the NJSIAA said.

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Well the results are in and seen the results.  Around the state of New Jersey there are major complaints.

But first, how did we get here.

The NJSIAA made several changes to last year’s power points only formula, which was also heavily criticized.  (A point of fairness, no method, short of all schools qualifying for the playoffs will make everybody happy.)  However, they were not so forthcoming to the general public about all the changes, and how they would work, as they could have been.

Additionally, some contend that when they voted to change the playoff system a year ago, they were only voting to add the extra bowl game, to come after the Sectional Finals, to create a North and South Champion. That all the other changes were not part of the deal. The NJSIAA says everyone knew.

“Its like Obamacare,”  Mike Pavlichko (who has been on this longer than anyone ) wrote in a tweet on October 20, quoting a coach who wished to remain anonymous, “No one really read what they were voting on.”  

First was the introduction of the Born Power Index (BPI) into the mix, which would count for 60 percent of a school’s United Power Ranking (UPR) with the Power Points (in a slightly modified form) counting for the other 40 percent.   Sounds like a plan, if anyone knew exactly how the BPI was made up. (Pavlinchko and others would pretty much reverse engineer it.) Bill Born, the creator of the BPI was not telling.

Born holds the formula for the BPI as a proprietary secret, and has not divulged it publicly,  much to the chagrin of the state’s football coaches, who wanted to know how they improve their rating.   What was uncovered by Pavlichko was disturbing.

  1. Your season starting BPI was last season’s ending BPI
  • (Advantage to teams that are historically good, bad teams have a bigger hurdle)
  1. Each game has a “spread “ - the difference between the two teams BPI’s

  • (Point spreads are now part of the equation.  Point spreads are only important to gamblers up until now)
  1. In the first four weeks of the season, your BPI increases (decreases) incrementally every four points. After week four, it increases (decreases) incrementally by every six points

  • (It matters when you win.  A big win early in more valuable than a big win late.)
  1. For the first four weeks there was no cap on point differential, after that 35 points was the amount wins/(losses) was capped at.

  • (The first four weeks blowouts matter.  Running up the score is smart. Sportsmanship be damned.  After that, sportsmanship only starts when up 35 points.)

It is believed that there were some people who had an idea about all this, including President of the New Jersey High School Football Coaches Association, Mike Fiore, the head coach of Montclair High School.  This came to a head for some when a few blowouts in week four triggered unexpected results.

Paramus, a 66 point favorite in the BPI, defeated Cliffside Park 42-0, refusing to run up the score.  They also lost points in their BPI ranking, because they did not cover, which set off the beginning of the firestorm of criticism of the system.

Fiore’s response to the issue  - “Schedule better teams,” is disingenuous.   Scheduling is the result of the conference you play in, and it is not easy to just move conferences to find appropriate opponents. There are many factors, and is not something that can just happen on the spur of the moment, something Fiore surely knows.

There was one other change that was part of the the playoff change, which again, depending on who you listen to, is either something that NJSIAA tagged on to the changes, or was well known.  Unlike years past, and every other sport in the NJSIAA, teams would no longer be put into their sections before the season.

Instead the state would be split into North and South, with the top 16 teams in each Public Group making the playoffs.  (The Non-Public have their own rules which we will not go into here.) Once the 16 teams were in, the state would use “Northing Numbers” to decide North 1 and North 2 in the North, and Central and South in the South. These numbers based solely on geography.

Are you ready for the fun to begin now?  Let’s take a walk through the brackets and see exactly why everyone is so unhappy.  We will look at the North Group 1 playoffs first.
GROUP 1

North 1:
(8) Pompton Lakes (4-4)  @ (1) Butler (7-1) – Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm
(7) Cresskill (5-3) @ (2) Park Ridge (7-1)– Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm
(6) Emerson (6-2)  @ (3) Boonton (6-2)– Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm
(5) Wallkill Valley (8-1) @ (4) New Milford (6-2)– Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm

North 2:
(8) Bound Brook (6-2) @ (1) Shabazz (7-1) – Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm
(7) New Providence (8-0) @ (2) Hasbrouck Heights (8-0) – Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm
(6) Hoboken (4-4)  @ (3) Weequahic (8-0) – Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm
(5) Newark West Side (5-4) @ (4) Cedar Grove (5-3) – Fri., Nov. 2, 7:00 pm
 

When Pompton Lakes upset Waldwick/Midland Park on Saturday afternoon, they wound up in a tie with Brearley (5-3), who lost at Dunellen (5-3) setting off a chain of events that saw:

  1. Brearley finish in a tie with Pompton Lakes in UPR, with Pompton Lakes getting the nod due to a higher BPI.
  2. Dunellen finish 18th overall (out of the playoffs)
  3. Hasbrouck Heights pushed from the #1 seed in North 1, Group 1 to the second seed in North 2, Group 1, due to the Northing number. (Hasbrouck Heights is not as North as eight other teams in the bracket, and was moved to North 2.)

New Providence, despite an 8-0 record, was ranked as the seven team in the region, solely based on their records the previous two seasons, when they went 1-9, driving down their BPI.  

The 1 through 3 teams in Power Points, BPI and UPR  were sent to the North 2 bracket. New Providence was seventh in the Power Points, but 17th in BPI, still being punished for last season.

This is the group that was the most normal of all the seedings.

Group 2 in the North has a 6-3 Sussex Tech team ranked 19th, while four win teams Hanover Park, Waldwick, Dumont and Newark Central are ranked above them.

Group 3 has a 3-5 Pascack Valley team seeded 12th, but no one with a stellar record is left out.

Group 4 Orange is at 6-3 is homer while Northern Highland, Morris Knolls, and Passaic Valley are in with four wins. North Hunterdon, at 3-5 took the final spot in the bracket.

Group 5 is reserved for the big schools, and bigger blunders.  Bayonne, at 6-3, doesn’t get in but Westfield (12th in UPR), Bridgewater-Raritan (13th) and Passaic County Tech  (15th) all made it to the playoffs sporting 2-6 records. West Orange (3-6) also makes it despite being under .500

But the worst offense of the entire process comes from South Jersey, where a 7-1 Delran squad missed the cut, while a 4-4 Cedar Creek team was ranked 6th in the South, and drew a 5 vs 4 game, on the road, in the opening round.

Glad everyone had “trust” in the process.

If you don’t like a process that doesn’t assign your section before the season for football, but does in every other sport; that uses a secretive formula that gives you credit/punishes you for prior years results, and uses a point spread formula to determine whether or not you make the state playoffs, write the NJSIAA and let them know.

 

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