System Might Be Better, But Not Good Enough
I have a lot of respect for those who worked hard to come up with the playoff system being used this year by the NJSIAA and I don’t doubt that it might be a step in the right direction. However, it would be a small step and not a giant leap and falls way short of coming up with a bona fide system to “reward” teams for having a good season.
That’s where it all starts for me. The playoffs should be for those teams that had good seasons and it starts with wins and losses. I doubt very much highly respected Middletown North head coach Steve Bush addressed his team in August with the following message. “Our goal is to make the state playoffs and even if we are 1-6 I will be happy with that result.” The Lions did indeed win only one game this season and yet they earned a berth in the Central Jersey Group 4 bracket and a date this weekend with top seed and defending champion Long Branch. I believe Middletown North is one of 24 public schools that have made the playoffs with LOSING records.
Then, of course, there is the case of Delran. I’m sure if you told Coach Garrett Lucas that he would go 7-1 with his only loss coming against a solid Northern Burlington team he would expect to be getting ready for a Group 2 playoff game this week. However, it was not good enough because Sterling (4-5), South River (5-3) Delaware Valley (5-4) and Cedar Creek (4-4) all finished ahead of the Bears based on strength of schedule.
Speaking of that let’s take a look at what happened in Non-Public Group 3 where unlike the public schools, a committee seeded the teams. What that group did was take a 1-8 Pope John team that was ranked 6th and moved them ahead of #5 Donovan Catholic (5-2). In fairness, Pope John does play a brutal schedule but you play the teams you are scheduled to play so the Griffins get penalized because they have to play National Division opponents Point Beach, Asbury Park, Keyport, Keansburg and Manchester who were a combined 12-26. By the way, Keyport (3-5) and Asbury (3-4) both qualified for the playoffs.
I’m not going to spend any words on the Born Power Index which is a major part of the equation to determine the playoff brackets and being used for the first time. That’s because the only one who fully understands it is its creator William Born who is no doubt brilliant and has 57 years of history to back up his data. However, he’s also the only one who understands how he gets the numbers he does. It’s kind of like my friend Rick Browner who owns and operates Ob-Co Donuts in Toms River. He knows the formula and ingredients for making those delicious donuts, but he’s not sharing it with us.
By the way, the Born Index does reward margin of victory up to 35 points and frankly, that’s a crock. You can’t speak about sportsmanship from one side of your mouth and then reward a team with a 28 point lead for scoring another touchdown in the final moments.
There will never be a system that pleases everyone and I’ll give those who came up with this an A for effort. But now you have a few months to go back and get it right…or at least better. Start with the fact that no team, regardless of who they play, should earn a spot in the playoffs with a losing record. This is the New Jersey Playoffs to crown champions (too many of them) and not give out participation trophies.