Yesterday the latest USTFCCCA computer ratings came out. On the men’s side, LSU moved from #3 in the rankings up to #1. But wait, you say, didn’t Texas A&M beat LSU over the weekend? Yet the Aggies fell a spot from #2 to #3? WTF?
Now you see the ridiculousness inherent in the system. The USTFCCCA computer ratings are merely a numerically-based projection of the final scores at the NCAA Championships. And those are based entirely on times, heights and distances, not on any who-beat-who results of real competition.
Even the BCS system, for all its strangeness, would never drop at team below its recently vanquished opponent. I fear that the USTFCCCA ratings, the only real ratings we have in college track, would make us a laughingstock…if anyone were paying attention. It needs to be done better, but in a way that holds meaning.
When considering how to put together college track rankings, I think it’s important to look at things from a larger perspective, and to ask existential types of questions. Why do college track teams compete, and for what? Is the only meet that matters the NCAA Championship? Does this weekend (whichever weekend it may be) matter only in terms of an opportunity to record good marks? When people come out to a college track meet, why are they there and what do they hope to see?
Decades ago, when college track meets were a more important part of the sports landscape, the final evaluation of a teams’ season was made in a lot of ways. Win-loss record in dual meets, competitive level at relay carnivals, and placing at various scored meets-not just the NCAA, but also conference and regional meets like the IC4A and Central Collegiates-all mattered. The landscape has changed, and from the spectator’s perspective, it’s been for the worse.
But how is it now? I would say that, for the top five teams or so, it is true that only the NCAA Championship matters. For nearly everyone else, the conference championship is the focus of the season. But there are other meets which keep team scores, and those should matter in rankings as well (albeit in the short term rather than long term). Otherwise, the ratings are saying that bona fide competition is not the point of our sport.
Tomorrow I will release the Superfan’s Power Rankings, an attempt to address the issue. Check this space tomorrow to see how it all comes out.