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Howard: It's time to change the OSAA ranking system

Major loopholes exist for teams brave enough to use them


Early on this season, I wrote a column that picked up a fair amount of criticism. I expressed frustration about how easily the Indians were dispatching opponents on Friday nights, and in hindsight, I see value on both sides of the discussion.

   I still think Estacada was a cream-puff. Yes, they’ve been good in years past, and they were the result of a hole in the Indians’ schedule, but playing the Rangers hadn’t really done Scappoose any favors until last week.

While the Indians were grinding out a win at home over Seaside, the Rangers picked up just their second victory of the season, a 21-14 win over La Salle on the road. In my eyes, that’s as much of a win for Scappoose, and the reason why is a little ridiculous.

In the 4A division of the OSAA, there are seven leagues and come playoff time, eight teams are needed for groups A, B and C. Group A takes the winners of each league, as well as a wildcard, which is the highest ranked team to not win their division.

That’s where Estacada comes in. The rankings are determined based on a weighted winning percentage (weight of 1.2 for a road win, .8 for a home win, 0 for a loss) and have nothing to do with margin of victory, team history or even which class they play in. That puts the same value on beating 5A Roosevelt (8-1) as it does Cowapa’s Tillamook (0-9). Things shake out a little once the opponent’s winning percentage is factored in, but that doesn’t take away a glaring threat to the current system.

The Sky-Em league is in the firm grasp of Cottage Grove (7-2, 5-0 league), with Elmira trailing by 14 places in the OSAA rankings. Elmira played No. 1 Philomath and No. 7 Mazama as part of their non-league schedule. Both games ended in lop-sided losses for Elmira, and the Falcons got zero points toward helping them in the rankings later on in the season.

If a team like Elmira was a little underhanded, there’s a solution to their problem. There’s no way the Falcons will pass Cottage Grove to win the league and in doing so secure a bye for the play-in round, but there’s another way in: the wild card.

As it stands, Elmira is far out of contention for the wildcard, which goes to the highest ranked team to take second in their league. It will most likely go to Scappoose, who is ranked fourth in Class 4A, but Elmira could sweeten their bid by scheduling some of the better teams from class 3A and playing on the road. Because the system doesn’t factor in the division a team plays in and looks only at the contest weight and overall record of a team, playing lower division teams slated to do well in their respective leagues would give Elmira, or whomever decided to try it first, a boost.

That’s a serious issue. The Indians can’t control their regular season schedule, but on the non-league side of things, they have some good, some bad, and some ugly. Programs don’t need to be docked for playing teams below their level of competition, but there needs to be a way to reward teams for taking risks - much like Scappoose did in playing Roosevelt.

Maybe it’s adding a coaches poll to the system, or a poll like the Harris poll, which is part of the Bowl Championship Series rankings at the college level. The Harris poll is comprised of former coaches, players and administrators, while also taking votes from current and former media members. Implementing such a poll brings in a new host of problems, but something needs to be done to add a human factor to a ranking system that doesn’t see teams huge aspirations.

Regardless of how the change is made, it’s time to start giving praise to those who aren’t afraid to do things the right way and take on Goliath - even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first.