NCAA Committee Tweaks RPI Again

The Division I men’s ice hockey committee has again tweaked its process for NCAA tournament selection, allowing for the alteration of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), a component of the comparison process used to determine the field.

According to the committee, “if the points awarded in the RPI for a win in a postseason conference tournament game are less than the average regular-season RPI point value per game, then points awarded for the postseason conference tournament game will be deleted. The committee feels that an institution should not be penalized for a win by having its RPI decrease, especially since that institution has no control over who it plays in the conference tournament.”

Details of the implementation were not announced.

RPI is a formula that results in a winning percentage intended to factor in strength of schedule. The base definition of RPI for a team is comprised of that team’s winning percentage (25 percent), its opponent’s winning percentage (50 percent) and its opponent’s opponents winning percentage (25 percent).

It is a common complaint that defeating a weak opponent can have the counter-intuitive effect of lowering your RPI. This new tweak is intended to address this deficiency in RPI.

More sophisticated systems are not susceptible to this flaw, though the NCAA has been reluctant to switch to such a system.

This move follows on the heels of last year’s controversial tweak, which boosted a team’s RPI points for “good wins,” defined as wins over a top 15 RPI team, with more points being awarded for road wins than home wins. The exact point “boost” was never released, though it is defined internally by the NCAA.

The new tweak is sure to ignite more controversy among those who believe better systems exist to account for strength of schedule differences, without the need to constantly tweak RPI. The most popular such system is KRACH, which is published by USCHO.

In other news, the Division I Championships and Competition Cabinet has recommended the approval of a video replay system independent of the television networks broadcasting the men’s Division I NCAA tournament games. The decision was made at its regular meeting last week in Indianapolis. It still faces approval from the Budget Committee and Management Council.

NCAA rules dictate that all goals in tournament games are reviewed, but the goals are reviewed using the actual on-air feed, meaning the referees are at the mercy of the television director. The men’s ice hockey committee believed that the reliance upon the network televising the game made for unnecessary delays, because video replay was not a top priority for them.

The Cabinet approved a one-time cost of $32,500 so that NCAA tournament officials could record the feeds coming from the broadcast, yet have independent ability to control their playback.

The Cabinet also has recommended for approval that funds be allocated so NCAA representatives can make site visits to cities and arenas in the running to host NCAA tournaments. It notes that site visits are a regular part of the Division I men’s and women’s basketball process. The budget impact would be $8,400.

“The committee feels that there is too much at stake in terms of the financial guarantees now being offered (in excess of $2 million) and other issues involved (e.g., television, hotels, etc.) with administering the championship,” said the cabinet’s report. “It feels that site visits in advance of the site selections is critical.”