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Sunday, October 17, 2010

OHSAA Harbin Computer Points.....A Tutorial.

I got asked on Twitter about explaining how Ohio's system of ranking teams via computer points works. I never thought twice about taking time to explain how they're calculated, for that I apologize.

I'll give it my best shot. I would however recommend that you take this information and file it away. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to track computer points for Orrville's or any other region. It will consume you. You will not sleep. Trust me. I tried it in the 2008 season....never again.

On a personal note, I remember tracking computer points during study halls spent in Mr. Phil Young's room (loved those blue 'get out of study hall' passes). I'd input the teams and points on a bar graph, it was nothing more than a graphical representation of what you read in the paper, but it LOOKED like work, so I was golden.

Let's get geeky.

The Harbin points system was put into action for the 1971 season as sort of a test balloon.  The goal was to rank teams on an even playing field.  No longer would reputation precede a team's on-field accomplishment, nor would a team's lack of reputation prevent them from gaining the attention they deserve.

Note this article, which paints a pretty clear picture of the issue of team's getting awarded titles that were based purely on opinion and reputation.  The example used is the example most Ohio High School football fans are familiar with....the Massillon Tigers.  They boast 22 state titles, but none since the playoff system was enacted in 1972.  Every single one of those titles were opinion.  Were they the best team?  I'm sure some years they were, maybe not in others.  Their reputation, while probably deserved, clearly preceded them, and to level the field for all schools, a computer point system was developed.

The system had, and still has to this day, two basic elements....1) Teams earn points for each win and 2) teams earn "2nd level" points based on the record of the teams they defeat.  So a win over a good team will, over the course of the season, be more valuable than a win over a bad team.

First Level Points
Before we get started, click on the Orrville schedule page on's site, use that as a reference point going forward. 

Points are awarded based on the size of the school you defeat, regardless of talent. A win over a Division I school is worth more than a win over a Division 6 school.

The breakdown is as follows.....
A win over a Division I school = 6 points
A win over a Division II school = 5.5 points
A win over a Division III school = 5 points
A win over a Division IV school = 4.5 points
A win over a Division V school = 4 points
A win over a Division VI school = 3.5 points

There are no partial points for close losses, or losses to really good teams. No points.

Orrville's 2010 schedule, in terms of first level points, breaks down this way.

Week 1 vs Division 3 Northwest = 5 points (Win)
Week 2 vs Division 4 Triway = 4.5 points (Win)
Week 3 vs Division 2 Copley = 5.5 points (Loss)
Week 4 vs Division 2 Lexington = 5.5 points (Win)
Week 5 vs Division 2 Mansfield Sr. = 5.5 points (Win)
Week 6 vs Division 3 West Holmes = 5 points (Win)
Week 7 vs Division 2 Ashland = 5.5 points (Loss)
Week 8 vs Division 2 Madison  = 5.5 points (Win)
Week 9 vs Division 4 Clear Fork = 4.5 points
Week 10 vs Division 2 Wooster = 5.5 points

So far in the season, the Riders have earned 31 first level points.  This number is always divided by the number of weeks completed in the season.  So after 8 weeks, divide 31.0 by 8 weeks and you get 3.875 first level computer points.

Easy enough right?  Let's move to second level points, shall we?

Second Level points - Overview
This is where it gets difficult.  To figure second level points, you need to know the opponents of each of your 10 opponents.  So if Orrville plays 10 teams, and those 10 teams each play 10 different teams on their own schedule, you'd have to track 100 DIFFERENT TEAMS to get an accurate measurement of the 2nd level computer points just for Orrville.
Luckily, because of conference play and shared opponents, it's rarely that bad....but to accurately track Orrville's opponents and their opponents, you'd need to track 49 different teams...actually less since Orrville lost to Copley & Ashland (and won't receive any points from them going forward)
To accurately track and record win and losses and points for the entire Region 14 of Division 4, you'd need to follow 136 teams on a weekly basis.  That's almost 20% of all teams in Ohio.
It's no easy task....luckily with the advent of the internet and programs like Microsoft Excel, the task is less pencil and paper and more about formulas and spreadsheets, but the manual entry part of it still remains.  Which is why the site is so, so valuable to coaches, players and fans of Ohio High School football.  Joe tracks each team, their results, and the results of the every other team in Ohio (and the out of state teams that play Ohio teams) and publishes his results a few days before the OHSAA.

Second Level Points - Examples
So let's figure second level points.  Follow me, because this is where it gets mind numbing.

Take Orrville's week 4 opponent...Lexington.  Orrville won the game 21-14 so they get 5.5 first level points for beating a Division 2 school, and they also get points for every team Lexington has beat and will beat the rest of the season.
Through eight weeks, they're 5-3, with wins over Mt. Vernon (Division 1), Shelby (Division 3), North Canton Hoover (Division 1), Mansfield Madison (Division 2) and West Holmes (Division 3)
Lexington's five wins gives Orrville a total of 27.5 (2 wins over D1 schools = 12 pts, 1 win over a D2 school = 5.5 points and 2 wins over a D3 school = 10 points) second level points as a reward for beating them.  That number will climb for each win Lexington posts over the final 2 weeks of the season.
So, there's the 2nd level points from Lexington, now you need to figure the 2nd level points for the other 5 teams (Northwest, Triway, Mansfield Senior, West Holmes and Madison) Orrville has beat to get the total number of 2nd level points.   Remember, there's no points for a team you lose to, so we don't need to worry about Copley or Ashland since the Riders fell short in those two contests.
The logic is that you want to beat teams, and then have those teams go on to win the rest of their games, giving you the maximum number of second-level points. 

Third Level Points??
In 1972 and 1973, the first two years of the Harbin points system, the OHSAA actually calculated third level points, which I can guess involved receiving points from not just the teams you beat (1st level) and the wins they compile (2nd level), but the wins of the teams your opponents' opponents beat.  Sheesh.  No wonder it only last 2 years.

Adding first and second level points
It's almost as simple as adding them both together...but one more calculation needs made.  The second level points get divided by 100 (Orrville's 10 games, and the other 90 games played by Orrville's opponents = 100 total games) and then multiplied by 10.  If Orrville, or any team on Orrville's schedule has a bye week where they don't play, that 100 number gets adjusted downward accordingly.
After 8 weeks, Orrville has 102 second-level points, divided by 100 and multiplied by 10 is 10.20 2nd level points.
Add that to their 3.875 first level points, and you get 14.075 points after 8 weeks.
According to this page, the cutoff in Region 14 to make the playoffs is 13.85 according to projections, after 8 weeks, Orrville has enough points (but barely) to be one of the top 8 teams in the region.


It's nice to know Orrville's points, but to know where we stand in the region, where the top 8 teams make the playoffs, you also need to do the same for every other team in the region.  That's where it gets completely exhausting, and something best left to computer saints like the aforementioned Joe Eitel and Drew Pastuer, who is a College of Wooster math professor and runs a site that tracks computer point projections and rankings.
Here's the states official computer points explanation, probably a lot more concise than mine, but essentially the same thing.

Let's try to sum this up via a concise formula....

(1st Level points total divided by # of weeks completed) + ((2nd Level points divided by 100) x 10) = Computer Points Average

Now you know why they let computers figure all this out.  I love the system, it's fair and rewards teams for winning games against tough competition, and it doesn't have a thing to do with margin of victory.  It's why we have 2 losses currently and have almost the same amount of points as undefeated Genoa.

If I glossed over anything, or anything needs clarified, please let me know...I'm always happy to discuss this topic.

And if you want to look back through history and see how the Riders finished in each year since the system was implemented in 1972, just look here.

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