CIFC playoffs only seem like rocket science

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2000

CIFC tie-breaking system

The following is the actual text of the tie-breaking memo released Wednesday by Cook Inlet Football Conference coordinator Chuck Nygard:

Steps for Tie-Breaker in the CIFC

(from memo dated 6/93)

Step 1 -- Win-Loss record in conference-only, head-to-head competition.

Step 2 -- Record against other conference-only teams which rank above the tie situation.

Step 3 -- The fewest defensive points allowed by a team in head-to-head competition.

Step 4 -- Each time a team is eliminated from a tie using the previous steps, the process shall be repeated from Step 1 for the remaining teams.

Step 5 -- In the unlikely event of a tie existing after the tie-breaker process has been exhausted, the final decision will be made by the President of the CIFC.

It's times like these when I really wish I'd gotten that degree in rocket science.

Maybe then I'd understand the Cook Inlet Football Conference's tie-breaking system. But if you'd seen my calculus grade, you'd understand why some folks consider me mathematically challenged. The CIFC's tie-breaking system is enough to give even rocket scientists headaches.

For those of you who haven't been following high school football this year, there is a very realistic possibility of a five-way tie for second place in the final regular-season CIFC standings. If undefeated Dimond beats Service this weekend, Juneau-Douglas beats winless West Anchorage and Chugiak upsets Bartlett, then five teams (East Anchorage has already completed its CIFC season) will have 3-3 records. That means five teams will be trying to figure out which three get the remaining CIFC berths in the state playoffs (Dimond has already clinched one of the four CIFC spots).

As the five-way tie possibility became evident after last weekend's games, CIFC officials were scrambling. It had been so long since the league had a multi-team tie, nobody was sure what the tie-breaking system was. I called Chuck Nygard, the activities principal at East Anchorage High School and CIFC coordinator, on Monday and his clerk said officials were digging through the files. Tuesday, Nygard said he'd found a memo from June 1993 detailing a tie-breaking system, but he was still waiting for confirmation from East principal and CIFC president Cynthia McCray before he could release it to coaches and media. Since the memo was released Wednesday morning, it's been a source of confusion.

"That's not much of a tie-breaking system. We should have brought all the teams together and did rock-paper-scissors. That's probably just as clear," Juneau coach Reilly Richey said during Wednesday night's practice at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

During the practice, Richey and several of his assistant coaches, parents and others debated the various possibilities, trying to see if Juneau still has a shot at making the playoffs. But each time we tried to run various scenarios through the system we came up with different answers. After practice, I called my colleagues at the Anchorage Daily News to see if they understood the system. They said they weren't even going to try to decipher things until after this weekend's games. It was just too complicated.

After reading the memo, I know three things to be true -- Dimond is the only team that has clinched a playoff spot, West is the only team eliminated from the playoffs, and Juneau needs a lot of help.

Juneau is definitely out of the playoffs if it loses to West at 7 p.m. Friday at Adair-Kennedy, which played Dimond tough a couple of weeks ago to prove it isn't a pushover despite its winless record. Juneau has to take care of business to even have a chance for state.

Also, Juneau can't afford a victory by Bartlett over Chugiak, because Juneau lost its head-to-head game with Bartlett last weekend. After that, things get hazy. I just don't know. There is a break-out box below this column detailing the tie-breaking system. Use it to check my math.

If Bartlett beats Chugiak and Service loses to Dimond on Saturday, Juneau is out of the playoffs. Bartlett would take second place, Chugiak drops out of the tie and three teams are left with 3-3 records (Service, Juneau and East). Since those three teams split with each other and all lost to Dimond, the next tie-breaker is head-to-head record against Bartlett. Service is the only one of the three teams to beat Bartlett, so the Cougars would get the third berth while East would beat out Juneau for the fourth spot because of its victory over the Crimson Bears. Juneau really needs Bartlett to lose to Chugiak.

If Service upsets Dimond and Bartlett beats Chugiak, Juneau is also eliminated from the playoffs. Service takes the second spot with a 4-2 record with Bartlett, also 4-2, in third place because of Service's victory over the Golden Bears. East and Juneau would be tied for fourth with 3-3 records, but East gets the final playoff spot because it beat Juneau.

The scenario's a little different if Service upsets Dimond and Chugiak upsets Bartlett, and I think Juneau makes the playoffs if this happens. If Service beats Dimond and Chugiak upsets Bartlett, Service (4-2) takes the second CIFC berth while Juneau, Chugiak and East are tied with 3-3 records. The three tied teams all lost to Dimond, but East falls out of the tie because it's the only one of the teams that lost to Service. I think Juneau ends up with the third seed because of its victory over Chugiak, while the Mustangs get the fourth spot at state. But I could be wrong.

Finally, if Dimond beats Service, Juneau beats West and Chugiak upsets Bartlett to create the five-way tie for second place, things will get interesting. The five tied teams will all be 2-2 against each other and each team will have lost to Dimond and beat West. That means it goes to the third tie-breaker, which is defensive points allowed in games involving teams in the tie. Depending on Saturday's scores, all five teams have scenarios where they're eliminated and scenarios where they make the playoffs.

The current points-allowed ranking has Bartlett with 58 points, Chugiak with 74, Service with 84, Juneau with 104 and East with 108 (Juneau and East totals are final, while the other three could grow this weekend). Unless Chugiak beats Bartlett in a lopsided rout, Bartlett appears to have the inside track on the second seed. That means Chugiak, Service, Juneau and East would go back to the top of the tie-breaker list to start over. Of the four remaining teams, Chugiak and Service have 2-1 head-to-head records with victories over Bartlett while East and Juneau are dropped from the tie because of 1-2 records and losses to Bartlett. Chugiak gets the third spot and Service the fourth.

But if Bartlett gives up a lot of points -- enough so Chugiak, Service or even Juneau end up with fewer points allowed -- the five-way tie scenario changes.

If Chugiak winds up with the fewest points allowed, then Juneau and Service get the third and fourth spots respectively while East and Bartlett are out of the playoffs. If Service ends up with the fewest points allowed, Juneau and Chugiak get the third and fourth spots while East and Bartlett are out of the playoffs. If Juneau ends up with the fewest points-allowed (East can't finish with fewest points allowed), Bartlett and East get the third and fourth spots while Service and Chugiak are out.

Like I said, this is complicated stuff and I haven't used a slide-rule since the sixth grade. I think these are the correct possibilities, but don't hold me accountable. In the meantime, Richey said he's got the perfect solution.

"I still say we go rock-paper-scissors, and we've got the perfect guy. (Running back Sione) Tupou won all the rock-paper-scissors games at our camp this summer. It was uncanny. All week long, whenever we went to rock-paper-scissors to see who'd do chores, he'd win," Richey said.

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