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Wed, Oct. 23

Playoff seedings treat Prescott High well, not so well

The Prescott High School volleyball team was ranked No. 10 among the Arizona Interscholastic Association's (AIA) Div. 2 volleyball seedings, which qualifies the top 16 programs for the state playoffs, as recently as late last week.

Yet they are not in the state tournament.

The PHS football program was seeded No. 13 two weeks ago, then won their Friday game that week and dropped to No. 14. The Badgers, already on the edge of qualifying for the state playoffs, then lost their regular-season finale this past Friday, which surely seemed to doom their chances of making the 16-team dance.

Yet they are in the state tournament.

Scratching your head? You're not alone.

The AIA's algorithm for seeding teams both hurt and benefited the two PHS varsity programs.

The volleyball team got word late Friday, two days after the 10-seeded Badgers lost their season finale to Boulder Creek, that the annual playoff contenders did not qualify for this week's state tournament. On Saturday, the AIA released its Div. 2 state football playoff brackets, which featured the Badgers, as a 14-seed, qualifying for the playoffs with a game this Friday night in Tucson at 3-seed Ironwood Ridge.

Talk about good news-bad news for Badger Nation.

"We're frustrated, but at the same time it's an opportunity for us to teach the kids you play hard, you try your best and then you accept what comes," Prescott High School Athletic Director Mark Goligoski said Saturday.

"I've been so impressed with the kids and the coaches who (believe) 'We will accept whatever comes because that's part of being an athlete.' We've got top-notch kids and coaches that say 'we did what we could and we'll take what we get, so that's OK.'"

The actual formula for determining state seedings is at the heart of the qualification process. Hardly clear to most anyone who examines it, the formula has been compared, by at least one Arizona athletic director, to college football's controversial BCS system.

"The AIA Seedings is based on the algorithm derived utilizing statistical mathematics presented in a research paper titled: 'A Solution to the Unequal Strength of Schedule Problem' by Roy Bethel in 2005 and developed by MaxPreps for nationwide high school sports," the AIA's website explains of the system. "The data which is not available for direct release is the hundreds of thousands of game results nationwide processed by the algorithm to produce each team's rating value."

The 19-page Bethel paper takes into account several factors, including using, as one example, the 1999 NFL schedule.

While the algorithm may not be the easiest to understand, for PHS athletics this weekend, one varsity team benefited while another did not.

"I know the AIA is trying do something that's fair and balanced for all the sports, even though it may not make sense to us right now," Goligoski said. "Maybe as we go through, maybe we're heading in the right direction. We'll have to see."

The PHS football team will soon be jockeying for playoff positioning in a new division as well.

The initial realignment for 2013-14, based on school enrollment, shows that the Badger football team will drop to Div. 3 next year from its current home in Div. 2. The two-year cycle would place Prescott in the same division with the likes of Flagstaff, Cottonwood Mingus Union and Coconino. Prescott High's reported enrollment of 1,668 is a couple hundred fewer than the last AIA realignment, though the athletics department's other varsity sports will remain in Div. 2.

The proposed realignment is going through the appeals process now, and won't be official for a couple more weeks.

Whatever division teams like Prescott end up in, the state's seedings formula will still determine future playoff spots. At least for now.

"I understand what they're trying to do with this ranking. I guess it's better than the alternative of if you're in a weak division and you don't qualify for the state tournament, it alleviates that issue. You play everybody; everybody is ranked based on a total formula. It doesn't matter if you play Div. 1 teams or 3 teams or whatever it might be. In the end, everyone should be compared to the entire state," Goligoski said.

"I guess that's the goal of all of this. But that's not necessarily how it's playing out."

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