FHSAA adopts ranking system for state football playoffs

Ratings Percentage Index replaces playoff point system

The Florida High School Athletic Association is changing its system for determining which football team goes to the playoffs. The change comes after the old set of rules came under fire from coaches who said it was unfair.  

After two years of using a confusing playoff points system to determine which teams would make the postseason, the FHSAA Board of Directors voted to endorse the Ratings Percentage Index system to determine playoff qualifications for football teams beginning in the 2019 season.

The RPI system replaces the older playoff point system, which awarded some teams bonus points even if they had a losing record. 

The RPI has been used in the past to help the college basketball selection committee determine at-large teams for the NCAA tournament. The rankings will be determined by a formula that takes into account a team's winning percentage (35 percent), the team's opponents' winning percentage (35 percent) and the opponents' opponents' winning percentage (30 percent).

Early reaction from local coaches has been mixed.

"I do (like it)," said Mandarin High School football head coach Bobby Ramsay. "It puts more emphasis on the teams you played, not the teams who played the teams you played."

The change comes in late January, when some teams have been changing the way they schedule to accommodate the old system.

"I do hope this is the last time the playoff qualification procedure is changed while people have already made the majority of their new schedules," said St. Augustine High School football coach Brian Braddock. "The timing didn’t necessarily affect us very much in terms of the schedule we have made, but I do know a lot of people were working on schedules with the previous system in mind, and the system is very different.

"I think the previous procedure may have made people a little more aggressive because of the bonus points. The RPI emphasizes your winning percentage to a greater extent."

If the formula would have been used in the 2018 season, the Andrew Jackson High School football team may not have been passed over for the playoffs by a team without a single win on the season. The Jackson Tigers, which had a 4-5 record, lost a coin flip to Gadsden County High School, which had a 0-9 record but earned enough bonus points based on their opponents to tie the Tigers. Jackson lost and sat home as the Gadsden County Jaguars played in the playoffs.

"We lost the coin toss and they were able to go to the next level," said Jackson football coach Antoine Atwater. "It, kind of, sucked telling these guys we lost in a coin toss. I think they would have taken this better if we lost in a tiebreaker, rather than losing in a coin flip.” 

Atwater said last year's coin toss and resulting loss was a hard pill to swallow for his team, which he said didn’t get a fair shake at the playoffs. He’s pleased the FHSAA is modifying the rules that he considered to be unfair. 

”I definitely think to go back and fix a problem that was wrong, that’s respect for me. I’m OK with that. They saw something wrong with the system and they fixed it," Atwater said.

The FHSAA voted Monday night to do away with the bonus point system, and adopted what they consider to be a fairer alternative, the RPI system.

"The FHSAA Football Advisory Committee, made up of eight football coaches from each section of our state, along with one rep from the Florida Athletic Coaches Association, felt a move to a RPI ranking system was needed to create more accurate rankings for football playoff qualification and seeding," the FHSAA said in a statement. "Furthermore, they felt the previous ranking system, which consisted of your own winning percentage and your opponents’ winning percentage, was shallow. Lastly, the committee cited bonus points specifically as creating scheduling havoc."

All regular season games will be used to compute the RPI for each school. Out-of-state opponents are counted the same as in-state opponents. There are no bonus points to be earned and margin of victory does not impact the ratings. The FHSAA has determined the following tiebreaker procedure:

1. Head-to-head result between the two teams
2. Winning percentage
3. Opponents’ winning percentage
4. Opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage
5. Highest-rated win (according to the final RPI standings)
6. Next-highest rated win (exhaust all possibilities)

The FHSAA will publish the rankings on FHSAA.org every Thursday at 2 p.m. beginning with Week 6 of the regular season. 

About the Authors: