By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Paideia girls coach Paul Meiere is in his 19th season at tiny private school located in the eastern most part of Atlanta. He is on course to quality for the state tournament for the 16th time in 17 seasons, has led the Pythons to five semifinals and two runner-up finishes.
In other words, he’s seen it all … until this season.
Meiere is one of a throng of coaches — public, private, girls or boys teams — that are not pleased with the new power ranking system being used to determine playoff teams in Class A. Here he spells out his reasons for coming down against the system:
“From my standpoint, I can no longer fill my non-region schedule with top teams without any regard for winning since such scheduling would make it all but impossible to qualify for the state tournament unless we win the region tournament. Each game is now critical for qualification purposes. This affects my substitution pattern in all games and lessens the playing time of bench personnel.
“The new system puts a premium on strategic scheduling which results in making it more difficult for coaches to make schedules since everyone is trying to gain a scheduling advantage. [It] makes it more likely that qualifiers will be required to travel longer distances for games prior to the championship game, makes it more likely teams from the same region will be matched against each other in early tournament games, and makes scouting for first round state tournament games impossible as you cannot predict with any degree of certainty who your opponent might be before the regular season and region tournaments are over. You will not know until a minimum of one to two days after the region tournaments whether you have qualified for the state tournament.
“A team does not have a clear goal with certain proof of qualifying for the state tournament. Prior years required finishing in the top four in the region to qualify. Before that it was finishing in the top two. This was a clear goal with certain easily determined proof. Now only the region tournament champion qualifies which lessens the importance of the region tournament games. Some regions are actually cancelling their region tournaments or at least cancelling their third place games in order to achieve an advantage.
“The new system does not reward teams that improve greatly during the season. The idea has always been to have the best teams in the state tournament. This is the reason for region tournaments. By giving the same weight to early season games as late season games, teams that have poor starts but improve drastically by the end of the season have no way to qualify for the state tournament other than winning the region tournament. They would be excluded even if they are clearly the second best team in the region. Also a team with a great player may do very well through most of the season but be a much weaker team if that player is lost to injury very late in the season. That team may qualify even though it is no longer among the better teams. Qualification through the previous region tournament method would prevent this.
“It is impossible to check your school’s power ranking or that of another school. You must rely on the honesty and accuracy of the reporting teams. Next you must rely on the accuracy of the collecting agent (MaxPreps) and their computer program. To verify the accuracy of your power ranking or that of another school you would need to have access to the schedules and results of all games of Class A schools. Schools in higher classifications and Class A schools who know they will not qualify have little incentive to enter scores accurately or check for accuracy the scores listed by the collecting agent (MaxPreps). The new system relies on honesty and accuracy that cannot be reasonably verified. The results of the previous system of qualification are out in the open for everyone to see and verify.”
That’s his take. What say you?