KHSAA unveils its new RPI system
The use of mathematical models to rank high school sports in Kentucky continues to expand, this time though, it is the KHSAA unveiling a new system. On Monday, the state governing body for high school athletics unveiled its own Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Similar to the RPI model for college athletics, the KHSAA’s RPI will use game results in conjunction with team win-loss records to assign a single number to value a team’s strength. The RPI will update hourly, though teams without scores submitted will be excluded from the rankings. Still, the KHSAA knows that the system will be a work in progress, noting that “This is experimental, not official, currently under development subject to revision and must be regarded with skepticism this early in the season.” Nowhere is the need for skepticism more obvious than the one sport that RPI has the biggest impact on — football. While the rankings will be available on the KHSAA website for all sports, the RPI will only actually impact football as the plan is for RPI to be used in seeding the quarterfinals of the state football playoffs. The district champions will be decided after the second round of the playoffs. From there, the RPI, which will be frozen at the end of the regular season, will be used to seed those district champions in an east-west format. The western districts (1-4) and eastern districts (5-8) will be re-seeded by RPI so that the No. 1 seed plays the fourth seed and the second and third seeds play one another. The top two seeds will host the lower two in the regional semifinals before the winners advance to the eastern or western region finals. The winner of those games would then advance to the state championships at Kroger Field in Lexington. If Woodford County were to finish as champions of District 7 in Class 5A, they would be placed in a group with the winners of Districts 5, 6 and 8. That is when the RPI would be used to re-seed the teams to determine which teams would host the regional playoff games. Based on current records and RPI, the district champions would look something like this if the Yellow Jackets were to win the 7th: District 5 Champion: Covington Catholic (.786) District 6 Champion: Scott County (.701) District 7 Champion: Woodford County (.534) District 8 Champion: Pulaski County (.631) From there, the teams would be re-seeded by RPI. Woodford would play at Covington Catholic as the No. 4 seed while Pulaski County played at Scott County in the two and three seed match-up. The KHSAA says that the football RPI won’t become official until Week 6, or Sept. 27. Woodford County is on a bye week that week and will begin district play the week after. The Jackets currently rank second in the 7th District by RPI, trailing only East Jessamine, but those numbers mean little with such a small sample size to draw from. The WCHS boys’ soccer team ranks first in Region 8 in RPI with a value of .650. That number makes sense given the Yellow Jackets 8-1-1 season record as well as their flawless region and district records. The Jackets are the only team in the 8th Region to have scored more than 50 goals and are also the only team to have allowed fewer than 10 goals this season. The Jackets plus-45 goal differential is by far the best in the region with Oldham County second at plus-32. The WCHS volleyball team is also tops in the region according to RPI with a .633 value. The Lady Yellow Jackets are the only team besides North Oldham to be over the .600 mark and are one of three teams, along with North Oldham and Simon Kenton, to be undefeated in region play at this point in the season. Though RPI will have no bearing on other sports, it will be interesting to see how accurately the KHSAA’s model seems to reflect teams’ performances. Soccer already has a fairly prominent statistical ranking system in the Maher Rankings. In those rankings, the WCHS boys’ soccer team is currently ranked seventh, three spots ahead of fellow 8th Region team Oldham County. In RPI the Jackets are a not-unsubstantial .049 points ahead of the Colonels. The two schools won’t play unless their paths cross in the regional tournament, but such a match would make for an interesting litmus test for the two mathematical systems.