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Greg Lee: Washington Interscholastic Activities Association tweaks RPI system

Davenport and Kalama battled for the State 2B girls basketball title earlier this month at the Arena. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Davenport and Kalama battled for the State 2B girls basketball title earlier this month at the Arena. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

By most accounts, the WIAA got it right when it adopted an RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) to seed the state basketball tournaments this year.

Rating the teams on how they fared during the season for seeding purposes was much better than the archaic system of drawing names out of a hat.

The second year should be even better.

Lind-Ritzville/Sprague athletic director and football coach Greg Whitmore is the chairman of the WIAA’s RPI committee. I asked him this week to give a letter grade for the first year.

“I’d give it a B,” Whitmore said. “We were looking for a more accurate and transparent way to seed teams. Did we think it was perfect? No. We’ll keep striving for an A.”

The committee got together after the state tournaments to evaluate the first year. As expected, the committee made tweaks and those were passed on to the executive board.

The board ratified the changes at its March meeting two weekends ago.

This year, games played against out-of-state teams were considered to be against .500 teams – no matter the record of the opponent. Next year, those games will carry the same value as in-state games.

This year, the RPI was frozen at the end of the regular season. Next season, the rankings will include games through district tournaments.

Whitmore presented some interesting data to his committee. Of the 12 state champs crowned, six played in loser-out games on the first day at Spokane, Yakima and Tacoma. So including the games during the regional round the previous weekend, those state champs ended up playing an extra game.

Just one of the state champs in boys won a loser-out game and that came when Kentwood surged to the 4A title. In the girls, loser-out winners captured state titles in 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A and 2B.

“I know there were people that didn’t like the fact you could lose as one of the top eight seeds and come back and win a state title,” Whitmore said.

Just two teams that finished ranked No. 1 in the final RPI rankings – Bothell’s girls and Clarkston’s boys – failed to qualify for state.

Overall, Whitmore was pleased with how the first season turned out.

“We didn’t think it was too bad and we’re confident it’ll be better (next year),” he said. “We’ll continue to look at the formula as years go by.”

Expanding the final fields from eight to 12 teams was well received.

“More kids got to experience a state tournament. That’s what we wanted,” Whitmore said.

The WIAA is open to adding an RPI system in football, boys and girls soccer, volleyball, baseball and softball. Whitmore said a survey was sent to athletic directors statewide seeking their suggestions on whether those sports should have an RPI seeding system as soon as next year.

Whitmore said the information will be presented to the board in late April.


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