Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wrestling: PointsGate fate rests with the coaches

So we finally got a response from the NJSIAA to this mess with the sectional power points, as the state's governing body for high school athletics essentially washed its hands by leaving the decision entirely in the coaches' hands.

On Wednesday, an email from New Jersey Coaches Association president Dan Smith was sent to all coaches with a request to vote for either the old or the new rankings chart by Friday's state imposed deadline. The "winning" chart will be the one used next week to determine this year's seeds and points for the upcoming sectional tournaments.

Under the new chart, teams that are wrestling better competition were actually being penalized for doing so. The old chart was incorrectly being used for the first few weeks by points tabulator Larry McMillan. More on that in a minute.

In that email obtained by Open Mike, the media outlet that first broke this story last week revealing that the power points were incorrect, Smith acknowledged an issue with Track Wrestling that was making it difficult for region ranking chairmen to find scores. The head coach at Watchung Hills also stated that the region presidents voted last spring to tweak the old chart.

The new table was voted on at the region presidents meeting last spring before being presented to the NJSIAA wrestling committee for another vote. Both committees voted to change the chart, which came about when coaches complained that teams were being rewarded too much for blowout losses vs. good competition.

But the biggest eye opener in this whole debacle is that Smith confirmed that no one tested the new chart to see how the points would shake out. McMillan, the most important person in this whole scenario, also stated as much in an earlier email to the Region 5 coaches.

"I don't remember being asked to run any simulations," McMillan said.

How could that even be possible? Raritan coach Rob Nucci, one of the most respected coaches in the state and a former Region 6 president, also was at a loss when reached on Wednesday night. It seems that no one can offer an explanation for what appears to be a reckless endeavor.

"We looked it over [in the spring] to make sure there were no screw-ups, but you can't really tell until you actually run the numbers," Nucci said. "That's kind of on us, not the state. We screwed it up. It's a mess."

That may be the understatement of the year. It's a colossal fail across the board. This was a chance for the NJSIAA to step up and show some real leadership. But instead, the problem was thrown right back in the laps of the coaches and region presidents.

What executive director Steve Timko and his staff should have done on Wednesday is say, look, we understand there are a multitude of problems with the new chart -- which has supposedly been on the NJSIAA website since October -- and since this is not a quick fix, we will go back to the old chart for this season and revisit the new one for next year.

That decisive act would have provided an immediate solution to this chaos. Instead, we will wait with bated breath for a vote by the coaches, which is really a farce in a number of ways.

First off, obviously no coach who stands to benefit from using the new chart is going to vote for the old one and potentially cost his team a sectional berth. And the opposite to that, no coach who will gain from the old chart will vote for the new one. And how about the coaches who have no dog in the fight because it doesn't affect them either way?

"It's a tough decision. Somebody is not going to be happy," said Region 1 president Scott Mahoney, who is also the head coach at Pompton Lakes, the current No. 1 seed in North 1, Group 1. " I think everyone [in Region 1] was surprised [the new chart] hurt them so much. All of the Region 1 teams wrestle great teams."

Nucci already has made that clear from the Rockets' standpoint. One look at the Central Jersey, Group 2 section and it's clear that a showdown with postseason rival Delaware Valley, the current No. 1 seed, could potentially occur much earlier than anticipated under the new system.

"I'm always about what is best for the sport, but with the old numbers, I could go from a fourth seed under the new chart to a second seed under the old," said Nucci, who has guided the program to its only two sectional titles (2004, '12) and its lone Group 2 title in 2012. "What is best for the sport? What's in the rules and regs now may not be the best for everybody."

The NJSIAA started the ball rolling in this direction by moving the cutoff date from Saturday, Jan. 31 to Wednesday Feb. 4 when it was discovered that there was a problem with the points and that some top-ranked teams were having issues meeting the 70-percent and 10-match vs. NJSIAA opponents rules due to the recent snow storms.

"That kind of opened a can of worms," Nucci said. "I'm hoping that the coaches get it right."

Newton coach Eric Bollette also will vote for the old chart as his team stands to move up in the North 1, Group 1 rankings. Bollette also has made it known that he feels teams should have at least a .500 record to qualify, a criteria that used to be in place.

"This is ridiculous," Bollette said on Wednesday. "And they need to decide which system will be used next year before the season ends so we can make our schedules accordingly."

That was another issue with the coaches. How could they plan for changes to this season's schedule when this new chart did not even appear on the state website until October? And furthermore, looking at that chart really does no good when most can't even decipher what all of the numbers mean.

It will be interesting to see how the votes shake out on Friday. How ironic would it be if it turned out to be a 50/50 split? What then? Let's decide it on Criteria H -- most first votes cast!

No comments:

Post a Comment