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College Baseball Notebook
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 09/21/1999
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Sept. 21, 1999

By John Manuel, Associate Editor
Baseball America

Every summer, college baseball coaches wait for the fax to come into their offices, usually by way of sports information personnel.

It's the Starr Report of college baseball: the annual release of the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI, the magic formula that helps determine who's in and who's out come regional time. The 1999 regionals had more teams in than ever. The expansion of the field to 64 teams from 48 was hailed in all quarters as a major step forward for the sport.

So how did two powerhouse programs from powerhouse conferences--Georgia Tech from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Arizona State from the Pacific-10 Conference--get left out?

The RPI provides the answer in Arizona State's case, at least. Whatever your feelings on the RPI, it's plain to see why Pat Murphy's Sun Devils didn't make the regional field in 1999. Arizona State ranked 71st in RPI. Of the at-large selections to regional play, Northeast Louisiana had the lowest RPI at No. 67. Baseball America never considered ASU (39-21) the 71st-best team in the country last year.

Frankly, all the proof I need that the RPI is a flawed mechanism comes from the fact the Pac-10 was ranked as the No. 6 conference in the country. The top five: Southeastern, ACC, Colonial, Big 12 and Missouri Valley.

Anyone who knows anything about college baseball knows how completely wrong that ranking is, although the Big 12 is right where it should be at No. 4. Not to take away anything from the CAA or MVC, but neither of those leagues has the Pac-10's talent or track record. The Pac-10 consistently ranks with the SEC and the ACC as the best leagues in America in terms of talent, depth of quality teams, national championship winners and Omaha contenders.

The last CAA team to even make it to Omaha was James Madison in 1983. The MVC has Wichita State, where Gene Stephenson has built one of the nation's elite programs. It's an underappreciated league, but the last non-Wichita team to make it to Omaha was hometown Creighton in 1991. Before that, go back to 1986 with Indiana State.

Meanwhile, Omaha wouldn't be Omaha with at least one Pac-10 team--current Pac-10 members have won 24 national championships, far and away the most of any conference. In 1998, Murphy's Sun Devils had to play Southern California for the seventh time in the national championship game. Also, the Pac-10 that year produced the Freshman, Coach and Player of the Year.

This is a league that consistently produces 2-4 teams that compete for the national championship. Every year. Only the SEC can say that, considering the ACC's sorry Omaha track record.

Something in the RPI formula slights those schools. The West Coast produces a disproportionate amount of talent (especially California) for the number of Division I baseball programs, compared to the Southeast. All that talent is concentrated in fewer schools, who beat up on each other pretty regularly in non-conference play. Combine that with the fact there are far fewer Division I schools west of the Mississippi, and it would require expensive, time-consuming, arduous road trips for most West Coast schools to have RPIs that look like those of East Coast teams with similar talent.

Simply put, while the RPI accurately ranks teams from the same region of the country, its gets out of whack when applied to the entire nation. "I think that's fair to say," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said.

The Jackets' Beef

Despite coaching at a school in the southeastern part of the country, Hall gets no solace from the RPIs. His Yellow Jackets rank 27th. A stunning 18 at-large selections had worse RPIs than Tech. That makes the work of the NCAA's baseball selection committee just look that much worse.

"The only explanation I can think of is we weren't compared to those other 18 teams," Hall said. "We were compared to North Carolina State. It's obvious the committee only was going to take five teams from the ACC, which I don't understand because the league had six teams get in last year when we had a 48-team field."

In fact, with the 48-team field in 1998, the four top conferences--ACC, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC--received 22 bids, including a record seven from the SEC and six from the ACC. In '99, with the expanded field, those conferences received 21 bids.

N.C. State ranked 23rd in the RPI, went 2-2 against the Yellow Jackets and finished one game behind Tech in the ACC standings. How could one team get in and the other get left behind?

The selection committee has focused in the past on specific factors of the RPI, such as how teams finished, how they fared against the Top 50 teams, etc., to decide between close teams. For example, Arizona State went 1-9 against Top 50 teams, as opposed to Northeast Louisiana, which went 4-8 including wins against Baylor and Louisiana State.

ASU's top 50 games: three games each at Florida State and Stanford, three home games against Southern California and one at Cal State Fullerton. That's three teams that went to Omaha and one defending national champion.

Georgia Tech went 7-3 in its last 10 games, including winning three of four against North Carolina (three of those games were in Chapel Hill, one in the ACC Tournament down the road in Durham). The Tar Heels ranked No. 18 in the RPI. Tech went 7-12 against teams in the RPI's Top 25, 11-12 when you take it out to the Top 50. Clearly, the Jackets got jobbed.

"All summer, everywhere I go, people talk about it to me," Hall said. "It hurt in May, it still hurts now. We felt like we got screwed."

The Jackets have put their displeasure into tangible form. One of Hall's assistant coaches had shirts printed up for the team with a memorable slogan aimed right at the NCAA: "1999 Pissed On. 2000 Pissed Off."

Come May 2000, unless there is change in the way the NCAA handles the selection of the 64-team field, more teams will feel the same way.

THE COMPLETE RPI

Here are Top 100 teams in the NCAA's RPI rankings for Division I. Listed first is the RPI of each team for May 22, which is what the selection committee had in hand when it made its decisions. That is followed by the teams' final RPI. Regional teams arenoted with an exclamation point (!), with at-large bids marked with an asterisk.

 Team                    5/22 RPI Rank     Final Rank
 *!Miami                       2                1
 *!Florida State               1                2
 !Alabama                      4                3 
 *!Baylor                      3                4
 !East Carolina                5                5
 !Wake Forest                  6                6
 !Cal State Fullerton         11                7
 !Stanford                    13                8
 *!Ohio State                 10                9
 !Rice                        14               10
 *!Texas A&M                   8               11
 *!Louisiana State            15               12
 !Houston                      7               13
 *!Clemson                    22               14
 !Wichita State               12               15
 *!Florida Atlantic           15               16
 *!Arkansas                    9               17
 *!Mississippi State          17               18
 *!Tulane                     24               19
 *!Richmond                   26               20
 !Providence                  19               21
 *!North Carolina             18               22
 *!Auburn                     20               23
 *!Oklahoma State             39               24
 *!North Carolina State       23               25
 *!Texas                      21               26
 Georgia Tech                 27               27
 *!Virginia Commonwealth      25               28
 *!Southern Mississippi       32               29
 *!Texas Tech                 29               30
 *!Mississippi                28               31
 Old Dominion                 30               32
 Coastal Carolina             31               33
 *!Southern California        37               34
 *!Minnesota                  36               35
 *!Southwest Missouri State   34               36
 Florida                      38               37
 *!South Alabama              33               38
 *!Notre Dame                 35               39
 *!Pepperdine                 40               40
 *!Southwestern Louisiana     50               41
 !Jacksonville                41               42
 *!Long Beach State           43               43
 !Florida International       46               44
 South Carolina               44               45
 *!Nevada                     47               46
 *!Rutgers                    42               47
 !Michigan                    58               48
 !Nebraska                    47               49
 *!Creighton                  45               50
 !Winthrop                    64               51
 Evansville                   49               52
 !The Citadel                 52               53
 *!UCLA                       56               54
 !South Florida               57               55
 !St. John's                  51               56
 !Illinois State              54               57
 !Central Florida             53               58
 !Louisville                  55               59
 !Virginia Tech               59               60
 Indiana                      60               61
 Missouri                     62               62
 *!Arizona                    63               63
 !Seton Hall                  65               64
 !George Mason                66               65
 Kentucky                     61               66
 !Oklahoma                    68               67
 Illinois                     69               68
 Northwestern State           70               69
 !*Northeast Louisiana        67               70
 Arizona State                71               71
 Georgia                      75               72
 UNC Wilmington               72               73
 Tennessee                    74               74
 !Delaware                    73               75
 Texas Christian              76               76
 Washington                   79               77
 Ball State                   78               78
 Boston College               77               79
 Virginia                     81               80
 Towson State                 82               81
 Troy State                   83               82
 Western Kentucky             80               83
 Lamar                        84               84
 McNeese State                85               85
 Villanova                    86               86
 !Loyola Marymount            87               87
 Michigan State               89               88
 Hawaii                       88               89
 !Southern                    96               90
 UNC Charlotte                90               91
 California                   92               92
 Fresno State                 97              T93
 Mercer                       94              T93
 UNLV                         91               95
 !Eastern Illinois           102               96
 Connecticut                  95               97
 Southern Illinois            98               98
 Penn State                   99               99
 William & Mary              103              100

CONFERENCE RPI RATINGS Here's how the NCAA's RPI ranked the nation's top 15 Division I conferences. One source told Baseball America the numerical difference between the SEC and the ACC was .0006.

  1. Southeastern
  2. Atlantic Coast 
  3. Colonial Athletic 
  4. Big 12 
  5. Missouri Valley 
  6. Pacific-10 
  7. Conference USA 
  8. Big 10 
  9. Big East 
 10. Sun Belt 
 11. Western Athletic 
 12. Big West 
 13. Big South 
 14. Trans America 
 15. Southland 
For more information, visit BaseballAmerica.com.

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