Rankings FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

To address the questions received by the AIA, in working with MaxPreps, the following FAQs have been created to assist in providing more information regarding the formula that determines the AIA Rankings:

How often are the rankings updated?
The rankings are updated Tuesday through Friday at Noon (except football which is once per week, or when otherwise noted), and only include results entered up until 11:59 p.m. the night prior.  Any result entered the day of the next rankings update will not be included in that posting, but rather the rankings that post the day after.

A simple answer for how the algorithm works?
The algorithm is not predictive and analyzes past games as opposed to projecting an outcome.  After analyzing thousands of games nationwide, the algorithm places teams in order.

What is the formula for the AIA Rankings as developed by MaxPreps?
The AIA Rankings are based on the algorithm derived utilizing statistical mathematics presented in a research paper titled: “A Solution to the Unequal Strength of Schedule Problem” by Roy Bethel in 2005 and developed by MaxPreps for nationwide high school sports.  The link to the paper and algorithm can be found here:http://homepages.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/rsfc/rate/papers/BethelRank.pdf.  The data which is not available for direct release is the hundreds of thousands of game results nationwide processed by the algorithm to produce each team’s rating value.

Are there any improvements made to the algorithm that was published?
Yes.  They are virtually negligible on the final ratings. For example, the algorithm doesn’t deal with something like a tie. However, everyone agrees if a game ends in a tie that we can assert the teams are very similar in strength. So we added an additional loop in the algorithm where a tie tells us that those two teams are very similar in strength. 

What are the basics of the formula?
The formula utilizes results from all games nationwide as opposed to only leveraging results from opponents and the opponents of opponents.  All teams start on a level playing field.  No values are given for division, enrollment, returning starters, previous record, etc.  Forfeits are skipped as they do not provide additional results occurring “on the field”. 

What is the minimum number of games a school must play to be included in the rankings?
11-man Football: 8 games
8-man Football: 6 games
Flag Football: 8 games
Volleyball (Girls’/Boys’): 12 games
Badminton: 8 games
Basketball (Girls’/Boys’): 12 games
Soccer (Girls’/Boys’): 8 games
Baseball: 12 games
Softball: 12 games
Beach Volleyball: 8 games
Tennis: 8 games

Note: Even thought forfeits are not included in the rankings, games marked as forfeits do not reduce the number of games played for a school.

How is the formula different than a RPI?
An RPI chooses an arbitrary percentage value for games against opponents and opponent’s opponents. The value selected is not important, but the point is that an RPI only measures two layers deep; whereas, MaxPreps can go infinitely deep.  This allows MaxPreps to better seed high school sports, where talent levels are vastly different from top to bottom, as opposed to an RPI produced by a formula used commonly where talent levels are much closer between all teams (such as collegiate and professional sports).

What is the difference between the rankings seen on MaxPreps.com and the rankings on AZPreps365.com?
The rankings seen on MaxPreps are predictive in nature as opposed to the “retrodictive” formula powering the AIA rankings which looks at games that occurred in the past.  While both process results from thousands of games nationwide, the “retrodictive” formula was determined to be more appropriate for post-season seedings.

What is the rating value?
The rating value translates into each team’s rank and eventual seed. 

Will defeating teams with winning records instead of losing records help improve a team’s rating?
Not necessarily. Defeating a team with a losing record that happens to compete in a strong schedule can be more beneficial than defeating a team with a winning record playing a weak schedule.

Why do forfeits not count in the rankings?
Forfeits are unfortunate, however there’s no context for a forfeit to indicate what a team would actually do on the field.  A misconception is that not counting forfeits incentivizes teams to dodge higher ranked teams.  The reality is if a lower ranked team intentionally forfeits a game against a higher ranked team, that team is most likely hurting its rating by losing the opportunity to improve their strength of schedule, regardless of the game result.   This will usually hurt their rating over the course of the season.

If a team lost a game, and then forfeits, does the winning team not get the win?
No.  If a game had been played, and the losing team has to forfeit that game, then the winning team would not be penalized and that win would still be included in the rankings.

Do invitational tournaments count in the algorithm?
Invitational tournaments are not a part of the algorithm as approved by the AIA Executive Board.

Is running up the score or margin of victory a factor?
In football and flag football there is a 14-point cap applied to victories that occur when the game's final score has a higher margin of victory.  For all other sports, margin of victory is not a part of the algorithm.

Can the number of games played be the difference in rankings if the schedules are uneven and some teams have played more than others?
Additional games will not arbitrarily help a team’s ranking because the formula does not automatically award points for each game or victory.  Instead, all teams are measured against each other via infinite layers of data and opponents.  For example, this is why a team with a 25W-5L record in a lower division will commonly be rated lower than a 17W-5L team from a higher division. (Remember divisions are not included in the algorithm, but only used in this example to help provide context).

Is the same algorithm being used for the same sports, for example, football and volleyball?
Yes the algorithm is exactly the same. 

Are rankings calculated differently if you play a team in a higher or lower division?
No. No arbitrary value is automatically awarded for playing higher divisions or deducted for playing lower divisions. 

In any given week, how can Team A defeat a low ranked opponent and jump Team B, who defeated a higher ranked opponent?
The ratings are not calculated as a week-to-week running total.  Therefore, it’s inaccurate to look at results in mathematical isolation from previous weeks.   Each week, the algorithm re-analyzes every nationwide result, not just the last games played.

Why are out-of-state games included given that AIA teams play a very small percentage of out-of-state games?
The more data you have the better able the formula is at finding the best result.  Out of state games are like any other game in that they provide more information.

How are out-of-state games factored in?
Out of state games are treated the same way that all games are. 

Advice to coaches planning a schedule?
Continue to schedule as normal, knowing that it’s equally important to win as well as to play tough teams.  There is no way to "game the system" by scheduling a few stronger or weaker opponents.  Again, this is because the algorithm utilizes tens of thousands of results to connect all teams to each other.