The NCAA’s Performance Indicator

If you follow college sports in the US then you’ve probably heard about the RPI. I’ve written about it before. It’s also something I’ve brought up in my coaching log entries. It’s a highly quantitative way of ranking teams toward NCAA tournament selection, or the playoffs in the case of college football (FBS).

The RPI is actually only part of the selection process. The other criteria look something like this.

  1. Overall Division II won-lost results.
  2. Opponents’ average winning percentage.
  3. Opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage.
  4. Head-to-head competition.
  5. Results versus common opponents.
  6. Results versus Division II ranked teams (all regions – once ranked, always ranked).

The first three on the list above are actually part of the RPI calculation.

Apparently, a move was put forward to drop the results vs. Division II ranked teams. In it’s place goes the Performance Indicator (PI). Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It’s been around for a while. It doesn’t get much press, though.

The PI has a very similar thought process as the RPI, though with a meaningful addition. Like the RPI, it values winning strongly, while also giving a boost for playing better teams. One thing the PI factors in that the RPI doesn’t, however, is whether the results are home, away, or on neutral ground.

Calculating the PI

23 − Win on road against a .750 or above team
22 − Win neutral-site game against a .750 or above team
21 − Win at home against a .750 or above team
20 − Win on road against a .500-.749 team
19 − Win neutral site game against a .500-.749 team
18 − Win at home against a .500-.749 team
17 − Win on road against a .250- .499 team
16 − Win neutral site game against a .250-.499 team
15 − Win at home against a .250-.499 team
14 − Win on road against a .000-.249 team
13 − Win neutral site game against a .000-.249 team
12 − Win at home against a .000-.249 team
11 − Road loss to .750 or above team
10 − Neutral site loss to a .750 or above team
9 − Home loss to a .750 or above team
8 − Road loss to a .500-.749 team
7 − Neutral site loss to a .500-.749 team
6 − Home loss to a .500-.749 team
5 − Road loss to a .250-.499 team
4 − Neutral site loss to a .250-.499 team
3 − Home loss to a .250-.499 team
2 − Road loss to a .000-.250 team
1 − Neutral site loss to a .000-.250 team
0 − Home loss to a .000-.250 team

Divide the total by matches played and you have the PI.

Impact on scheduling?

So first priority is to win, and especially to win on the road. If you’re going to lose, then you want to lose on the road against very good teams. We joked in the office while going over this that no one will want to host anymore since even if you lose you get more points doing so on the road. 🙂

Honestly, I don’t think the PI will factor into things for most teams. For some conferences the only realistic way to get into the NCAA tournament is to win the league title, so the teams there don’t care overly much about these other considerations. Perhaps teams that dominate a given conference care, as it goes toward their NCAA tournament seeding, but that’s about it.

In the more competitive conferences, however, the story is a bit different. For example, in the South Central region the Lone Star Conferences and the Rocky Mountain Conference contribute 7 of the 8 teams to the NCAA tournament at the regional level. That means each year there is not only a battle for who makes the tournament, but also for who gets seeded where (and by extension, who hosts).

Note, though, that there are several other important criteria, two of which related to direct comparison between teams. That means you can’t necessarily just focus on maximizing PI.

John Forman
About the Author: John Forman
John currently coaches for an NCAA Division II women's team. This follows a stint as head coach for a women's professional team in Sweden. Prior to that he was the head coach for the University of Exeter Volleyball Club BUCS teams (roughly the UK version of the NCAA) while working toward a PhD. He previously coached in Division I of NCAA Women's Volleyball in the US, with additional experience at the Juniors club level, both coaching and managing, among numerous other volleyball adventures. Learn more on his bio page.

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