Answering Seeding Questions

January 19, 2018

Seeding is a topic on the agenda of several Michigan High School Athletic Association sport committees. Last May, the Representative Council reiterated that its approach is to consider seeding on a sport-by-sport, level-by-level basis, depending on its committees and others to develop specific plans and to demonstrate wide support among schools of all sizes and types.

A recommendation by the Basketball Committee in December of 2016 to seed District and Regional basketball tournaments with one of the systems utilized by the NCAA for its men’s Division I tournament was not adopted by the Council last May, but MHSAA staff was requested to explore alternatives for seeding District level tournaments only.

Subsequently, MHSAA surveys have demonstrated significant support, especially in more populated areas, for an approach that separates on District basketball tournament brackets the top two teams of each District whose teams continue to be assigned on the basis of geography. We’ve found that historically strong programs tend to support this “simple seeding,” while middle-of-the-pack programs tend to see seeding as another obstacle to success and creating more distance between haves and have-nots.

MHSAA staff have demonstrated how similarly the results would have been if any one of the three systems had been used to perform this simple seeding of District basketball tournaments in 2017. In the vast majority of 2017 District tournaments, the team that actually won the tournament would have been the No. 1 seeded team in that District, demonstrating that simple seeding may be less about picking the winners than it is determining which two teams will play in the District championship games.

Many questions would have to be answered before any one of these systems could be adopted. However, even without answering any questions, in December 2017, the Basketball Committee recommended seeding for District tournaments as soon as possible.

At its January meeting, the MHSAA Classification Committee made a recommendation to the Representative Council that attempts to answer one of the questions. That committee agreed that if a plan is approved to separate the top two seeded teams in each geographically determined District of the Girls and Boys Basketball Tournaments, the system used should be completely controlled within the MHSAA office.

Of course, many other questions and logistical details need to be answered. Do we only use games versus member schools? What do we do with unreported scores? When is the data finalized? Should human input be added to the computer ratings? Do seeded teams automatically get a bye? How and when do we assign officials?

Answering such questions must come next.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.