An East Valley power points aficionado believes an inadvertent glitch inside the Arizona Interscholastic Association's power points system rewards teams for playing in extra games regardless of the outcome.
John Carrieres, who graduated from Arizona State with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, worked for years at Intel, and is the father of a former East Valley high school athlete, has done football power points projections for the past four years. He says football has been the sport least affected by his discrepancy claims because nearly every school plays 10 regular season games.
This year, he began studying how the recently-adopted basketball sectional tournaments would affect postseason seedings, and he said he came to the realization that teams playing in more games get a boost because the formula does not properly normalize opponent's victory points and opponents' opponents' victory points.
Because of this, Carrieres claims nearly every state tournament bracket has been improperly seeded since the fall of 2010, when the current power point system was first adopted.
"The current AIA powerpoint (sic) generator has a major error in its implementation," Carrieres said in an email. "There is absolutely no doubt that it adversely (and significantly) affects the accuracy of final rankings and playoff qualifying for all sports. I know it is hard to believe that an error could exist in the formula that has been in use in the past year-and-a-half. Believe me, I was absolutely floored when I realized it existed and its impact."
Both AIA Director of Business Media Brian Bolitho and Chief Operating Officer Chuck Schmidt said in multiple phone conversations and emails this week that playing in more power-point games or matches does not give teams an advantage over those that play fewer.
Asked if it's possible playing more games could be advantageous or fewer games could be detrimental to a school's power points, Bolitho said: "No."
In addition to basketball teams gaining a full 90 points per victory in the sectional tournaments next week. Teams that lose sectional tournament games will receive victory points and opponents victory points.
"The way the power rankings formula works now was approved by the membership through the Executive Board and is accurate under the formula for which it operates," Bolitho wrote in an email.
Both Carrieres and the AIA agreed there is no "norm," a standard number of games used in the calculation of total power points, in the current system. That proposal for change was tweaked and adopted last winter.
Carrieres said that change - not having a "norm" in the system - is the impetus behind the perceived problem. Bolitho said the removal of a "norm" was tweaked and implemented in response to AIA membership concerns that it was unfair for schools to gain or lose power points based on whether opponents' schools played more or fewer schools.
"The notion was that a team that played more games than another was at a disadvantage because that school with more games would not get the opportunity to earn potential opponent victory points if that same school had played the same number of games as them," Bolitho wrote when asked why the "norm" was removed from the system.
"That is why the formula was created to adjust based on the number of games a school plays. If a school's (number of games played) is one game more, why should that school be penalized for playing opponents that played fewer games, and why should the school that played fewer games have an advantage to earn more opponent victory points vs. an opponent that played more games? That was the ultimate question that the committee discussed and was addressed in the formula that was presented and is in use today."
Schmidt said if there are concerns about the current power points formula, member schools should bring those issues to the AIA Executive Board for review, as per AIA bylaws. Schmidt said an update on power points (and computer scheduling) is expected to be brought up at its Feb. 21 meeting, though specifics were not immediately known.
Carrieres emailed the Tribune and the AIA several examples of situations that highlight the perceived flaw he sees in the power points system.
In soccer, for example, there was some surprise when Phoenix Maryvale was seeded second in the Division I boys soccer postseason bracket. The Panthers went 10-4 in power point matches and played more contests than any other team in Division I.
The initial thought was that Maryvale was seeded ahead of 12-0 Gilbert (No. 3) because of a strength of schedule discrepency, but Carrieres believes the power points formula was the root cause. In his adjusted formula with a fix to the formula's alleged flaw (having a "norm" standard number of games played), Carrieres said Maryvale would have been the No. 9 seed.
Those are hypothetical, and the results of Carrieres' theory that a variable number of power point games played is a significant factor in total points could be better known by the end of next week. The addition of power-point-inclusive section tournament games in boys and girls basketball will give some teams several more power point games played compared to their divisional opponents.
The majority of the teams that play in the section tournament finals will have played in 21 power point games. The majority of teams that do not make the section tournament will finish with 18 power point games.
If Carrieres' findings are correct, he believes every extra game a team plays in the section tournament unfairly boosts the team's power point ranking.
He said, consequently, teams that are left out of the section tournaments will have its chances of making the postseason greatly hindered if there is a flaw in the formula.
He also believes there will be a significant differentiation in final power points between schools that win its respective sectional tournaments, and all other schools, because of the additional games (and victories).
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.