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C Team Elimination?

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  • C Team Elimination?

    In just a week’s time, the first regionals of 2018 will be completed. For many teams, this will be the end of their season. For some of them, it will be because they weren’t good enough. For others, it will be because they had crazy judges, a hard schedule, or just plain bad luck. But for other teams, this will be the end simply because AMTA decided that it should be so. For these teams, it doesn’t matter how hard they have worked this season. It doesn’t matter how much time they have spent, how much they have improved, how much evidence law they learned, or how creative they were. It doesn’t even matter how many ballots they won. From the moment they show up at regionals, they know the season is over.

    I’m talking, of course, about the C, D, and E teams from larger programs. Over the last few years, there have been a lot of C-E teams who have performed admirably at regionals. Many earned bids, and for some it wasn’t even a close thing. Last year the following C-E teams placed in the top five at their regional (teams in italic lost their bids as a result of their programs’ A and B teams qualifying):

    Georgetown C (1st bid, Washington DC)
    Rhodes D (1st bid, Louisville)
    Patrick Henry E (2nd bid, Raleigh)
    Fresno State E (3rd bid, Colorado Springs)
    Duke C, (3rd bid, Raleigh)
    Irvine C (3rd bid, Claremont)
    Rhodes C (3rd bid, Dallas)
    Notre Dame D (3rd bid, Joliet)
    UCLA E (3rd bid, Tempe)
    Yale C (3rd bid, New Haven)
    Berkeley C (4th bid, Seattle)
    Chicago D (4th bid, Joliet)
    UCLA C (4th bid, Claremont)
    UCLA D (4th bid, Tempe)
    Boston University C (5th bid, New Haven)
    Florida E (5th bid, Raleigh)
    Georgia C (5th bid, Columbia)
    NYU C (5th bid, New York)
    Oregon C (5th bid, Seattle)
    Rhodes E (5th bid, Louisville)

    Pursuant to AMTA rules, the fact that these 20 teams did so well doesn’t matter. If the associated A and B teams qualified, they were not permitted to advance. In the end, over half of them lost their bids.

    Right now we are in a situation where if, hypothetically, the 22 best Mockers of all time attended the same university in the same year, only 20 of them would be able to go as far as ORCS. The last two (despite the fact that they were actually better than literally anyone else in the nation) would be forced to sit by and watch as their teammates destroyed lesser teams. This strikes me as unfair.

    Removing the limit on the number of teams from a program would have a couple of advantages:

    Fairness: This one is fairly self explanatory. It does not seem fair that some students who have worked hard all season are prevented from attending the higher levels of competition even though they qualified (and even though they are demonstrably better than some other teams that are allowed to attend). Right now, for many students, the question of whether they get to play in post-regional tournaments does not involve their status as a top competitor relative to the national pool, but simply rank within their own program. Eliminating the limit would mean that everyone is competing against the national pool, rather than the other students at their own school.

    Improving the level of competition for everyone on a yearly basis: AMTA’s tabulation manual explicitly states that one of the goals our tournament structure is to ensure that the best teams move forward to the next level. This goal is not served by eliminating C-E teams. In eliminating qualifying C-E teams, AMTA is removing some of the “best teams” from the pool and swapping them out for less good teams.

    Improving the level of competition for everyone long term: C-E teams are often made up of the youngest and least experienced members in a program. Allowing them to go to ORCS/Nationals earlier will give them more opportunities to learn from the experience. In a few years time, this will make the Nationals field will be more experienced and, hence, stronger.

    Decreasing the randomness at ORCS/Nationals: The wider the talent pool is at ORCS and Nationals, the more likely it is that the objectively best teams won’t qualify. The wider the talent pool is, the more likely it is that two teams of even strength will end up playing schedules of very different strengths (due to the randomness of the first round draw and the effect that that draw often has on second round pairings). This can have a big impact on qualification out of ORCS or placement at Nationals. Eliminating the team limit would narrow the talent pool and (so) decrease the randomness of later tournaments.

    Providing more of an incentive for C-E teams to take regionals seriously: In any AMTA competition, it is important for all competitors to take every trial seriously. If a team does not perform to the best of its ability, it can affect the outcome of the tournament for the other teams they play and thereby skew overall results. Right now, a C-E team from a program whose A and B teams have already qualified has little incentive to take things seriously. Eliminating the team limit would provide the incentive of a possible trip to ORCS to motivate such teams.

    Decreasing the continuity advantage that programs who can afford coaches have over student run programs: One of the biggest advantages that coached programs have is the continuity and institutional memory provided by those coaches. Coaches can often attend the postseason year after year and develop a body of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t at the highest level. Student run programs, on the other hand, have a maximum of four years experience in their most oldest players. The current limit restricts the amount of experience players in student run programs can get even more, because those players typically spend a year or two on C-E teams which can’t advance. That means they can’t get postseason experience for their first year or two.

    Decreasing the toxic environment within programs over who gets to be on a postseason team: Right now, the question of who is going to be on A or B teams vs C-E teams can be a big one. Students placed on a lower team know that their chances of advancing to the postseason are low as a result of the AMTA rule. This often causes tension and animosity within a program (more so than the difference between A and B team or between C and D team). There are also cases in which a C team will qualify from an earlier regional than an A or B team and will find themselves in the position of hoping that the A/B team doesn’t qualify (because if the A/B teams qualify the C team will lose their bid). Both of these situations should be avoided if possible and will be mitigated if the bid limit is removed.

    Increasing retention of competitors: One of the biggest reason members of my program end up quitting (and I have spoken to other programs who have noticed the same phenomenon) is that they know that they will never be able to advance past regionals. These competitors are, by any objective standard, excellent players, but there are better people in their programs, and so they will be eliminated from the postseason every year. If the bid limit were eliminated, every competitor in AMTA would have the hope of advancing. Given that AMTA, presumably, believes that competing in their tournaments is educationally useful, improving retention would be a plus.

    Increasing our predictive power over the next few years: this might seem like a pretty minor issue, but right now there is an issue in regional balance stemming from the fact that C-E teams are all unranked, despite the fact that many of them are historically very strong. This means that our normal methods for balancing regionals are skewed. Allowing C-E teams to compete at higher levels would allow them to build up rankings along with other teams, and that would make it easier to calibrate our tournaments. This would make regional assignments more fair.

    Of course, there are a few clear objections to this system, but I think none of them are insurmountable.

    Removing the limits would mean that schools would need to send more than two teams to ORCS and we don’t want more that two teams from one school at any one ORCS: This is a place where AMTA could simply apply the same policy they have for regionals to ORCS. If a school earns more than two bids to ORCS, they must send different teams to different ORCS, with no more than two going to the same ORCS, even if this causes extra expenses for the school.

    If more than two teams from a single school manage to qualify for nationals, there would have to be more than one team from a single school per division: Unless some school manages to qualify more than 4 teams to Nationals (highly unlikely—-last year only one program managed to qualify more than four teams out of regionals let alone out of ORCS), there would be no more than two teams per program per division. This would mean that a Nationals division wouldn’t have any more of a problem with impermissible matches than an ORCS tournament. ORCS tournaments don’t seem to have a big issue with impermissables, so this shouldn’t be a problem at Nationals either. Even if some school manages to qualify their A-F teams to nationals (unlikely as no program has ever had a G team and only two even have F teams this year), this wouldn’t make the situation any worse than the Seattle regionals, and as far, as I know, there haven’t been any disasters there (or AMTA could move the limit to four teams at ORCS/Nationals rather than two).

    Wouldn’t this concentrate the bids into the hands of just a few schools (and probably the big ones with coaches and resources)?: It would certainly mean that it would be possible for some of the big programs to get a lot of bids, and some of them probably would. But I think it’s important to note that not all of the schools which are qualifing multiple teams are from big, coached, resource-heavy programs. Programs like Yale, Berkeley, and Georgetown are entirely student run, and many more of the programs on the above list are primarily student run, but have coaches who play a merely advisory role. And some of these programs get very little support from their universities in terms of finances and resources. Giving extra bids to these programs wouldn’t be giving extra bids to people who already have extra resources and coaching. It would simply be giving extra bids to people who are good.

    I also think that, while the elimination of the bid limit might give an advantage to big coached programs at first, we should focus on the long term effects of a rule. As mentioned above, I think that in the long run eliminating the bid limits would actually decrease the advantage of having full time coaches and help smaller, student run programs get ahead.

    What about the teams that are currently getting the spots that C-E teams vacate?: I acknowledge that this might be a difficult pill to swallow for some teams. Assuming a fixed number of bids to ORCS, there will be teams who do not get bids that would have gotten bids had the C teams been eliminated. I think there are two things to keep in mind. First, literally any major change to the way the rules work will result in some teams earning bids that otherwise wouldn’t have and other teams failing to earn bids that otherwise would have. The decision to use a new case for nationals, for example, has probably changed who makes the final round in all of the last three years. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t amend our rules to make them better.

    Second, it is not as though we would be cutting off access to ORCS from any specific program. Instead, we would be saying that they have to qualify by being better than someone else's C team. Yes, there are schools who might have been able to qualify before (consistent open bid list occupants), but this isn’t because anyone in particular is stopping them. It’s because they’re not as good as other programs’ C teams.

    Wouldn’t this cut down the number of schools that get to attend ORCS?: In short, yes. But it’s important to keep in mind that it would simply decrease the number of schools, not the number of teams, and, therefore, not the number of students. The same number of students would be reached every year.

    What would this do to the open bid list?: The open bid list is an excellent feature of our bid system which I would be loath to see eliminated (if anything, I would prefer to see the Nationals Open Bid list more frequently used). It helps to deal with issues where something weird happens at regionals—be it the situation two years ago where Wesleyan went 6-2 at the enormous New Haven Regional and didn’t qualify, or the many situations in which AMTA overpacks a regional with good teams and one of them barely misses the cut, or many, many situations where a good team is kept from qualification by that one crazy judge. If we eliminated the limit on the number of teams from one program, we would also eliminate the primary source of open bids (C-E teams having to give up their spots).

    I think the solution to this is designated open bids. Each ORCS would have three designated open bids for a total of 24 open bids, which is just a little under the number of open bids given out last year (27). This would allow us to have a meaningful open bid list (unlike the nationals one which rarely gets used at all) without relying on C-E teams dropping their bids after regionals. The spots at ORCS for the open bids could be created, either by increasing the number of teams per ORCS or by decreasing the number of direct bids from each regional to make space.

  • #2
    This is a really important issue that I think has pros and cons, but let me start with where I agree,

    I agree with the idea to designate some extra open bids and possibly expand ORCS in addition to this inclusion of C-E teams. I agree that the change would be great, but only if we are going to expand ORCS. My reasoning here, is that I believe that as AMTA grows, it gets harder and harder for new/smaller teams to make it to higher level competition.

    For many small programs, getting into top level competition throughout the year is next to impossible. Many tournaments require an ORCS appearance, and unfortunately until a team has an ORCS appearance, this means their practice pool is quite restricted. Moreover, without having top level practice and seeing other top teams perform, this results in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which those teams then continue to not be as strong as they could have been. If the open bid list goes away (or there are fewer open bids given), then it becomes less and less likely for a team to make ORCS.

    As far as including C-E teams I again agree with what has already been said about why it is a positive change and would result in better competition.

    But, I have concerns that we aren't thinking about the repercussions this may have about the field at ORCS and Nationals. While the quality may be better, we will have far less diversity at these higher levels. If we have 5 UCLA teams, 5 Arizona teams, 4 UC Berkeley teams, 4 Irvine teams, and 4 Oregon teams, we are already at 22/24 teams and we only have 5 programs... in extreme cases we could have as few as 6 or 7 programs at a single ORCS. This is extremely problematic because we want to see other programs competing, and the competition itself will be far less exciting when you essentially know which other teams you are going to be facing.

    My compromise is that I think AMTA should allow 3 (maybe 4) teams to go to ORCS, still 2 to nationals, but have them include 2-3 more Open Bids to each regional. I also think that the Open Bid process should be weighed more heavily on a totality of circumstances such as invitational season performance, average power rank of teams played at regionals, and other measurements that sometimes get lost in the evaluation. Particularly at regionals, where power protecting can make CS's sometimes a little misleading, I think that we need to be willing to look at other indicators. For the record, on the note about invitational season performance, I think that this should be given very little weight, but mostly if there is a very strong program who has been strong throughout the invitational season and then all the sudden gets extremely unlucky at regionals, that to me is fair grounds for an open bid. I also think this would encourage teams to take invitationals more seriously, and encourage/force teams to publish results to AMTA.


    • #3
      Speaking as someone who hailed from a school that routinely got 3 or 4 bids from regionals, this is an absolutely terrible idea for so so many reasons.

      Firstly, a handful of your "pro" arguments are things that your own program can and should be working to fix in house, and isn't something AMTA can control with policy:
      - "Providing more of an incentive for C-E teams to take regionals seriously"
      - "Decreasing the toxic environment within programs over who gets to be on postseason teams"
      - "Increasing retention"

      These are tough problems that every program deals with, but there are ways to fix them within a program's culture. It usually takes some brainstorming and some discussions with team members and some internal policy changes, but it's totally possible to do it. I'm also not even sure an AMTA policy change would fix those last two - there is always the potential for a toxic environment (even if a student on Coastal Kentucky State C gets to go to ORCS, s/he could still be pissed that s/he isn't on A), and that can have the same effect on retention.

      Secondly, one big undiscussed con is the effect of tabbing and pairings at the ORCS level. Right now, you can't hit your own team at a tournament (so no Coastal KEntucky A vs B matchups, even if that's the way things theorietically should tab out in round 3). You also can't hit a team that you've already played that weekend. If something like this ever happens, there are a complicated set of ways to resolve the conflict in the tab manual. Let's take Adevans scenario just for a second and say that UCLA, Arizona, Berkeley, Irvine, and Oregon all send 22/24 teams to ORCS. Now, you have a significantly larger chance of running into tab conflicts in every round, and that only gets worse and worse as the tournament goes on and more teams play each other. Even right now, tab conflicts can result in some pretty unwieldy matchups at the ORCS level that can give some teams advantages and other teams disadvantages. When a tab conflict occurs, it necessarily reduces the ability of a tournament to accurately match the teams that ought be hitting each other, either according to who is doing well or who should be power protected, depending on the round. Tab conflicts are generally bad and hurt the overall fairness of an ORC. We shouldn't do something to increase those.

      Allowing more than two teams to get to ORCS from a school also changes the incentive structure of those schools. Right now, AMTA allows schools to either truly stack their teams top to bottom or to have even teams of approximately the same talent level when it comes to designating A, B, C, etc. Schools do different things depending on their interests/needs. But if a team like Yale could split it's best 15 members say across 4 teams, and get all 4 to ORCS as a result, what does that do for Yale? Well, if it's still a tab conflict to hit your own school, it dramatically increases the chances that Yale can get one or even two teams to Nationals because they've effectively begun to squeeze out other teams who they're even eligible to hit.

      Adevans point about repercussions resulting in higher diversity is a real issue too. Imagine how disheartening it would be for a young program in the North East to not have a chance to get to ORCS because teams from Yale, Harvard, NYU, Columbia, Tufts, Brown, BU take all the available bids with their multiple teams. Over time, that would have a really negative effect on those younger programs and reduce their desire to even compete -- what's the point if you don't have a chance because you have 6 powerhouse programs around you who can get 4-5 bids per season? Letting these younger, newer teams get to ORCS is really important to their development and raises the competition of everyone over time (you can see how the competition has gotten better as more teams have joined the circuit - just watch a final round from the early 2000s and compare it to the last couple final rounds -- teams nowadays would put many teams from a decade ago to shame). I realize it's tough to be a C-E team with talent and resources who don't get to move on, but it's even tougher to be one newer team from one school without resources and without even older members to look up to because they haven't gotten a chance to compete at the national level yet either. If a goal in AMTA is to promote more folks getting involved across the country, we need to make it possible for young upstarts to break through, and limiting the ability of the traditional powerhouses to hog all the slots at ORCS/Nationals is part of that. This is a really big deal -- if teams stop competiting in AMTA because "what's even the point," either you'll find a new mock trial circuit start up, or you'll just find a bunch of schools not even bother.

      There are so many more things, but honestly this is just a misguided idea designed to make good mockers on successful teams feel better about themselves instead of thinking about good mockers on less experienced teams and helping those teams get better to increase the overall quality of our circuit. It's possible to build a supportive program culture where C and D and E and Z teams feel valued and like they're doing something beneficial, and it's possible to get those folks involved at all levels of competition - you might just have to think a littl eoutside the box to make it happen.


      • #4
        Do teams from schools such as Berkeley, Yale, etc. (student run programs that have earned more than 2 bids to orcs) operate independently of one another? Because if not, framing the argument as being about allowing all the most hard working, creative teams to advance is a misrepresentation. A "C" or "D" team from a nationally competitive program (which does not operate each team entirely independently) gains a tremendous advantage from being able to learn from, scrimmage, and collaborate with top national competitors on a weekly basis. Programs without that established success and talent have to work much harder and be more creative on their own to achieve success. If you want the most hard working, creative teams to succeed there need to be limits on how many spots one program can take.

        Success breeds success and allowing more teams to advance to orcs would only make this more true. But if you want to talk about "coaches and resources," allowing more than 2 teams to advance only if they send a team to a different ORCS gives even more of an advantage to programs with the money to send teams hundreds or thousands of miles to compete somewhere else.

        This would only make things worse, and it looks like it would be particularly harmful on the west coast.
        Last edited by benmfelder; January 29th, 2018, 07:28 PM.


        • #5
          Shadow , Adevans

          I think both of you may be missing one of the big things I said in my response to the first objection in the original post. Of course it would be a TERRIBLE idea to allow a single ORCS to take a bunch of teams from the same school. As Adevans pointed out, that would mean that you could end up in a situation where there are only 6 or 7 schools at an ORCS, and that wouldn’t be fun for anyone. And, as Shadow pointed out it would make the impermissibles in tab a complete nightmare and would mess up the fairness of the ORCS.

          But, I never suggested such a system, in fact, I specifically rejected it. What I suggested was that AMTA follow the same system of ORCS assignments that they do for regionals assignment where a school is allowed to have many teams go into regionals but only two to any one regional. Similarly, schools would be allowed as many teams to ORCS as qualify, but only two to any given ORCS (unless some school is sending 17 teams into ORCS, this would be feasible and nobody is anywhere close to 17 teams). Yes, there would be some schools that send a lot of teams to ORCS, but any given ORCS would look just the same as it does now, with no more that two teams from a particular school. This wouldn’t mess up the tabbing or the “diversity” at any given ORCS.

          You also both touched on issues of small schools qualifying in a field of super strong programs. I’m not insensitive to this point. That being said, I think you overestimate the problem here. Last year 139 different programs got bids to ORCS. Had the team limit been removed, that number would have decreased to 129 (there were 18 open bis created by C-E teams last year but 8 of the last open bids given were given to B teams of programs that already had an A team going to ORCS). We aren’t talking about a huge reduction in the number of programs that advance here.

          I also think we have tendency to underestimate small/new schools. There are schools like Colorado College that qualified for Nationals in their very first year of existence and beat older more established schools to do it. Colorado College has, since then pretty consistently made ORCS despite having only existed for a few years, proving they weren’t just a flash in the pan. Similarly, Indiana University is a very new program (they’ve been around for only five or six years at this point) and they just placed fifth in their division at nationals. MIT is also very new (I think just three years old). They qualified for ORCS last year (and would have even with the C-E team limit removed). It is certainly true that the majority small new schools don’t qualify for ORCS/Nationals, but that’s because the vast majority of schools, new or old, don’t qualify for ORCS/Nationals (⅔ of every regional tournament fails to qualify to ORCS and ¾ of every ORCS doesn’t qualify). So, it would, in fact, be statistically really weird if a ton of new schools qualified.

          Adevans ,

          You brought up a possible compromise situation. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I think moving the cap to four teams would be entirely reasonable. That would have changed the situation so that it affected only one school last year (as opposed to 18) and most years wouldn’t affect anyone. It would also mean that we could allow all of those teams to advance on to Nationals and wouldn’t have to worry about more than two teams from one school in any division (so we wouldn’t run into tab problems at Nationals).

          I also, absolutely agree that the Open Bid list needs to remain available, and would probably be more tailored to a holistic approach (I’m not a huge fan of using invites, but there might be other ways of doing it). I too am interested in the idea of expanding ORCS/Nats. I have no clue what the logistical restriction on this might be for AMTA, but I wonder what would happen if the expanded Nationals to 56 teams (28 teams per division). That would mean we could have an additional bid out of every ORCS (7 bids rather than 6 bids). Then each ORCS could be expanded to 28 (keeping the same ratio of bids to teams). The extra four bids could be designated open bids. Then we could have all of the qualified C-E teams and some additional non-C-E teams, we would keep the open bid list, and everybody benefits.

          Shadow ,

          I’m interested in your worry that expanding the number of bids a team could change the incentives for schools in stacking. More schools might try and split stack longer into the season and get as many bids to ORCS/Nationals as possible. I think that’s probably true, but I think there are two things that keep that from being a problem. First, splitting up where said schools send their teams for ORCS (so that there are no more than two at any given ORCS) would stop them from just flooding the field at any given ORCS (which seemed to be your primary concern), and Second, if they actually want to do well at Nationals, those teams would probably have to stack eventually to make a really strong A team. So while you might see more early split stacking by big programs, I don’t think it would cause any serious issues in terms of competitive balance.

          You also point out that as the number of schools who compete in AMTA has increased the quality has also increased. I agree that the quality has gone up substantially in the last few years, and new schools have certainly played their part. But I disagree that the addition of new schools is the strongest factor in the improvement of AMTA overall (correlation does not necessarily imply causation). There have been some other changes that have occurred over the last decade that have, I think played a larger role. For example, the level of difficulty in the cases in the last few years has drastically increased, forcing people to learn more and take more on. This means that by the end of the season, they have built up more skills and are more able to put on impressive performances (I think this is particularly true in the past few years when the normal season cases have been particularly challenging and have forced a lot of growth and then teams are spectacular on the easier national cases).

          But I think the biggest factor that’s driving the improvement is top teams pushing to outdo each other and getting better year after year as they strive to be more impressive and one-up last year’s performances. We see this in all sorts of fierce competitions. Take the Olympics, for example. In many sports the same countries are at the top every year, but they still just keep getting better and better trying to outdo one another in difficulty and perfection. Same thing goes in Mock Trial. Given this, the way to improve the quality of the activity and the level of competition we are seeing is actually to make things as competitive as possible at the top. As I pointed out before, cutting out the C-E teams actually lowers the average level of competition at ORCS (because you are eliminating better teams in favor of worse teams), so it’s counterproductive.

          As to your (somewhat uncharitable) claim that this is simply “a misguided idea designed to make good mockers on successful teams feel better about themselves,” I disagree. I think you have three major misconceptions here:

          1. You seem to think I am claiming that changes in AMTA policy would entirely solve problems of internal toxicity and dispute in big programs. This is quite a straw man of my argument. At no point have I claimed that a change in AMTA policy would completely erase issues surrounding stacking, or issues surrounding teams not taking things seriously. Certainly in any stacked program, there will always be people who are unhappy not to have made A team (even if they are on a team that can advance), certainly there will be people who quit as a result of such feelings, and certainly there will be people who don’t take tournaments seriously even if they can advance. But that doesn'’t mean that a change in AMTA policy wouldn'’t improve such situations (even if they couldn’'t completely solve them). And I think any improvement in these situations is a positive effect. 

          2. The fact that it’s possible to mitigate the symptoms of a problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t address the underlying issue. We don’t tell doctors that the fact that they now have new treatments and technologies that can help deal with the effects of heart disease means that patients shouldn’t be told to eat healthy diets that won’t lead to heart disease in the first place. Similarly, I believe that there are ways of treating the symptoms of the problems caused by the team cap.I completely agree that with effort on the part of a big program “It's possible to build a supportive program culture where C and D and E and Z teams feel valued and like they're doing something beneficial, and it's possible to get those folks involved at all levels of competition.“ But that’s just treating the symptoms. It’s programs who are doing remedial work to treat the problems caused by the team cap. Like the doctor saying that maybe we should eat better in the first place, I’m saying that maybe we should get rid of the team cap in the first place.

          3. You seem to be arguing that the fact that three of the positives I brought up are not by themselves sufficient to justify removing the cap means that the cap doesn’t need to be removed. But the internal strife related issues I raised were not the only things I mentioned as benefits (in fact they were pretty close to the bottom of the list). The issues of fairness and overall improvement of competition are, I think the most pressing matters that removing the team cap would address. Dealing with internal issues are nice bonuses that increase the persuasive value of the other arguments even if they would not be sufficient on their own.


          Obviously, I can’t speak to all programs, but I know of several where the teams are allowed to develop their own material pretty independently and are encouraged to do so. There are many C teams who work very hard and manage to be very good independently.

          Clearly, there are programs where that is not the case. There are some coached programs that just run the same scripts for all of their teams, and in those cases, the C teams are getting a lot more help than other C teams. But the same could be said for the A teams of those programs. And similarly, there are over-coached programs with just one or two teams where they are winning more on the basis of their coaching staff than on the basis of their student’s legal ability.

          Because of all this, I think the question of who has enough help to advance is less of an issue with large programs vs. small programs and more of an issue with ridiculously over coached programs vs. less coached programs. It isn’t fair to penalize the C and D teams of programs where the C and D teams really do have autonomy and really do their own work simply because there are a couple of notable programs out there that are over-coached and could send many teams through on that basis.
          Last edited by The_Quibbler; January 29th, 2018, 06:13 PM.


          • #6
            I apologize if I wasn't clear enough in my first post, but I wasn't talking about over coaching and scripting across teams. Even with each team developing independent theories and material, the ability to discuss, practice, and scrimmage that material with experienced, successful mockers is a distinct advantage. I know I learned to do mock trial from the older members in my program, and as such I was taught good habits and techniques from the beginning. It would have been much more difficult without the example they set and the guidance they provided, even though I was writing all my own material.


            • #7
              Here's the thing, from my perspective.

              Yes, it's true that restricting programs to two ORCS bids isn't "fair" - it means that a small number of teams across the country who earned a bid don't get to use it. But AMTA is approaching a turning point when it comes to how the future is going to look. Right now, the top tier of AMTA is pretty stagnant. It's the same handful of teams competing for the National Championship every season, and breaking into that group is next to impossible. There's a wider group of programs who go to Nationals every year, and while it's not impossible, it's also really difficult to work your way into that group. If you open the doors for C and D teams to go to ORCS, you make it even more difficult for teams to climb the ladder within AMTA. Taking that first step - getting that first ORCS bid, even off the open bid list - is harder than it has ever been, and it's only going to get tougher as more and more established programs add teams and grow their resources.

              I come from a position of skepticism about how much AMTA really wants to encourage new programs. I don't mean that in a nefarious way, but AMTA is run by the top-tier programs, and AMTA's resources are already stretched pretty thin. With 700+ teams registered, we're seeking the current system bending a bit, and if you open ORCS up to C and D teams, you're only going to heighten the difference between the haves and have-nots. Like adevans said earlier, it's incredibly challenging for newer teams to get invitational experience. There aren't enough tournaments to begin with, and spots at those tournaments generally go to teams with established track records. In the long run, it's better for college mock trial as a whole if New School A goes to ORCS over National Power Program C or D, even if National Power Program C would beat New School A head to head.

              I understand and sympathize with the argument that it's just fundamentally unfair to a C or D team that earns a bid. If I was in that position, I'm sure I'd be angry. But AMTA is the governing body for every team; it's their responsibility to balance competitive fairness with institutional growth and making it possible for newer teams to experience upward mobility. Right now I think they do a pretty poor job of that - although I'm not sure there's a lot they *can* do without completely upending the system - but the ORCS bid restrictions are one area that specifically benefits newer teams.


              • #8
                I started reading this thread patently opposed to OP's recommendation for all the reasons stated by Shadow, Ben, and Koala. I still think that it's a bad idea to change the two-bid rule on balance, but OP's statistic that only 18 bids were given up by teams unable to compete at ORCS due to the 2 bid rule. ("C- teams"). So here's some more data.
                Year Total Open Bids 1st Team Open Bid
                2017 27 21
                2016 32 25
                2015 23 22
                2014 27 19
                2013 36 24
                Defense expert disclaimer: this was based off a cursory glance at the open bid list, and I don't vouch for my own ability to count to more than ten. I also wish I had a convenient way to measure how many extra teams from programs turned into open bids because of the two-team rule, but I'm not about to comb through three years of regional results to count them. If captainbowtie wants to write a script though, I wouldn't be mad.

                The number of total open bids per year suggests that simply adding a capped limit of 3 open bids per ORCS would lower the number of open bids given per year. The capped limit suggestion also doesn't address the fact that reserving open bids for each ORCS will restrict the number of earned bids per regional. This is a problem because if there are fewer earned bids per regional, there are more successful teams that will languish on the open bid list. What good is having a set number of open bids if it necessarily swells the open bid list by roughly the same amount? But aside from that problem, every year, there are a little more than 20 programs that get to compete at ORCS who wouldn't get to go without a robust open bid list. And these bids are important. Last year, Arizona qualified to nationals, but only got to ORCS through an open bid.

                And there's a second, equally important function of open bids that hasn't been discussed much in this thread. The open bid system (and the two-team rule within it) decreases the uncertainty caused by the random element of tournament pairings. The reason Arizona didn't get a straight bid to ORCS last year is because they ended 4-3-1 with a CS of 22.5. And that kind of schedule isn't unique. That same year, UC Davis ended 5-3 with a CS of 21.5. Vanderbilt 5-3 with a CS of 19.5. In 2016, UC San Diego, Syracuse, and Seton Hall all ended regionals with a winning record and a CS of more than 20, but all of them needed open bids to compete at ORCS. In the current system, is it really fair for Rhodes C to get a bid to ORCS over Vanderbilt because Rhodes beat Howard Payne University in the fourth round of their regional? Is it really fair for UCLA D to get a bid over Arizona after hitting them in round 4 in Tempe and finishing on the losing end of a split with them?

                These aren't particularly fun questions to ask. Rhodes and UCLA are dynasties that field 4+ excellent teams every year. In a perfect world, everyone who deserves to go to ORCS should get to go to ORCS. But in the current system, bids are scarce. This year, less than 30% of the teams currently registered will get a bid to ORCS. Maybe the board should consider changing the system. But the unfortunate reality is that for some teams who were good enough, an extra 3 bids per ORCS isn't enough. Arizona last year was 29th in line for an open bid, so they would have missed the cut if there were only 24 open bids. The same is true for Seton Hall in 2016.

                The last point I have is a secondary concern to me, but still worth mentioning. C- teams that are successful continue to be successful. A freshman on the C team of a successful program can come back next year and compete at ORCS on the B team if she continues to be successful. For a senior on the A team of a less successful program, this is his last shot. There's a certain appeal to maximizing the number of people who get to feel the excitement of competing in the post-season over the course of their career.

                I guess ultimately, I don't think the two-team rule costs that much. It means that freshmen on successful programs have to wait a year or two to compete at ORCS, which sucks. But C- teams are still useful. They're safety valve in case a program's A or B team fails to get a bid. Miami in 2013 is a great example of this. Miami B ended at 4-3-1 with a CS of 25, Miami C was 4-3-1 with a CS of 19.5. Their second bid ultimately came from the D team, who went 7-0-1 at regionals two weeks later. Without the D team, Miami would have been 28th on the open bid list, which would have failed to get an open bid in 3 out of the last 5 years. They certainly would have been fine that year, but their D team meant that they didn't have to worry.

                But eliminating the two-team rule weakens the safeguard against uncertainty that the open bid system provides. It means that there will be more teams who have the talent to compete at ORCS, but don't get to do so because of a tough schedule at regionals. It doesn't ensure by any means that the teams competing at ORCS are really the best teams in the country. And it still has the huge logistical problems inherent with preventing impermissibles before and during tournaments.


                • #9

                  Here are the stats you didn'’t have time to run (I have no life, so pouring through years of tab summaries sounds like fun to me).
                  Year Bids from C-E Limit First Teams Who Got Those Bids Total Programs With Limit Total Programs Without Limit
                  2017 18 10 139 129
                  2016 18 11 141 130
                  2015 17 16 142 126
                  2014 18 9 137 128
                  2013 21 9 141 130

                  I think OP is right that you need to look at only the bids that were vacated by C teams. There are a lot of reasons why Open Bids become available. For example, some teams decide to give up bids that they earned (for financial or schedule reasons) and often AMTA has some designated open bids that they just pre-assign (right now there are four for this year but that number often goes up as regional numbers drop). So not all of the open bids in your chart are dependent on C-E team elimination.

                  This matters because getting rid of the limit would only eliminate spots from the open bid list that are currently being created by C-E teams dropping bids. So, when evaluating the effect of removing the cap, we should only look at the end of the open bid list. Because AMTA gives preference on the open bid list to programs that don’t already have a bid, removing spots from the end of the open bid list is going to be far more heavily weighted towards removing spots that would have gone to B teams than if you look at the list as a whole. As a result, looking at only the C-E team dependent bids is going to have a much less pronounced effect on the number of programs that get bids total. What this means is that about 18 C-E teams would get to go to ORCS when they were previously denied a spot and it would only eliminate around 10 programs who would get to go with the limit (instead of 20).

                  It’s also important to note regarding your claim that this would reduce the number of spots on the open bid list, that in fact, it would increase the total number of spots. We would be losing roughly 18 spots from the open bid list every year and then adding 24 new ones (presumably the ones that get added for other reasons would remain). So, there would be roughly 6 extra open bid spots per year.

                  Your better point was that this might be reversed by the fact that we would be reducing the number of bids out of each region, and swelling the open bid list (thus reducing the randomness buffer). But I think you are looking at it wrong. This wouldn’t reduce the randomness buffer. Right now we have 5 wins as what I will call the “quality win”---The point at which one is guaranteed to get a bid (eventually, although it may take some intervention from the open bid list). And then 4.5 wins in the “randomness buffer” where some teams that dropped to 4.5 wins due to bad luck and thus have high CS’s will get bids. In the randomness buffer, we prioritize A teams over lower teams so that whole programs that have bad luck get moved up before individual teams that had bad luck.

                  If we were to remove the cap, we would be implicitly only allowing the better teams through (as I understand it, that was part of OP’s point). Now the quality win threshold would be 5.5 wins. Then we would have a large randomness buffer at 5 wins. Again, we would prioritize teams programs with 5 wins who were the first team from their program, so that a whole programs that has bad luck would still get to go. This doesn’t mean we have less of a randomness buffer, it just means that the overall level required to get into various levels is higher because we are requiring a higher level of competition.

                  The this spreadsheet is what the open bid list would have looked like for last year had we allowed C-E teams (and reduced the number of bids from each regional to make designated open bids). The dark line shows the cutoff between who would have gotten a bid to ORCS and who wouldn’t.


                  Now it might seem like a quality win of 5.5 wins is too harsh (that is, you might think that anyone with 5 wins should qualify). But it’s not an unreasonable number. The quality win for ORCS is usually 6 wins, and that seems to work out pretty well. Of course, there will still be teams with really really bad luck, but that can happen in any system.

                  I don’t have a strong opinion on the merits of fairness vs. helping new teams, but I don’t think the situation with the open bid list would be too ridiculous if you removed the two-team limit.



                  How would you feel about this compromise situation: the C-E team cap is lifted for teams that earn direct bids, but the open bid list is exclusively for first teams from a given program? That way we could maintain a system that helps out smaller/newer programs a bit (as the Open bid list is already leaning towards given the way it ranks teams), but still not eliminate the C-E teams you mentioned in your first post who did extraordinarily well.

                  If you combined this compromise with your suggestion that there be designated open bids, you would actually end up sending more programs to ORCS than we do on the current system, so people looking for a route for new programs to get to ORCS should be happy, but C-E teams wouldn’t feel like they had been arbitrarily kept out.

                  I also did a mock-up of what that might look like if we combined this compromise with your designated open bids idea. Again, we would reduce the number of bids out of each regional by one, but have extra open bids. Sheet two of the above spreadsheet shows what that would look like. In fact, it puts the cutoff for ORCS in the middle of the 4.5 wins bunch, so exactly where it is under the current system. It looks like it would preserve our current levels for quality wins and randomness buffer.
                  Last edited by TheGhostofChaseMichael; January 31st, 2018, 12:19 AM.


                  • #10
                    benmfelder KoalaWeather

                    I think when considering fairness to programs that are newer or less resource heavy there is an important trade-off we need to consider regarding success at various levels of competition. What effect removing the cap would have on who makes it to ORCS isn’t the only relevant factor in considering fairness to such teams.

                    Yes, removing the C-E team cap would reduce (by a very small margin) the number of programs that get to go to ORCS (although TheGhostofChaseMichael compromise might fix that), but we also need to consider what happens at higher levels.

                    As KoalaWeather mentioned, there is a very limited collection of teams that place top at Nationals every year, and that collection is pretty stagnant. One of the reasons that I think this occurs is the huge imbalance in coaching and resources across teams. For example, if you look at the top 10 teams right now, five of them have coaches that are deeply involved with the board (that number gets even worse when you notice that four of the top five have board related coaches). That’s wildly disproportionate the distribution of board members across the country (or even across the national field). Now I’m not suggesting that there is some weird board conspiracy to make their teams do well. Rather, I think we are seeing that the same types of people who are so dedicated to mock trial as to be willing to be on the board (a largely thankless job) are also great resources for their teams. And while it's great that those teams have such resources, it is a huge source of inequality since many programs just don’t have access to someone like that. Similarly, many of these top programs have a lot more resources than other programs (which they can use to travel to big tournaments, attend more tournaments etc.).

                    I think benmfelder is absolutely right when he says that one of the big ways for students to learn is from older students. But that only works if there are experienced older students in your program. As I said before, one of my worries with the current cap is that younger/less experienced mockers are being prevented from competing in the postseason. By the time they get a chance to compete at ORCS/Nationals level, they are already the upperclassmen and so they have a lot less time to incorporate what they have learned from the postseason. This makes them less effective both in their own performance and in their training of the younger members of their program. This gives a huge advantage to teams with dedicated coaches who have years worth of postseason experience and know what works.

                    As a result, I think that, removing the C-E team cap might be a big help for less established mid-size programs (e.g not huge dynasties like Rhodes or UCLA but programs with three or so teams) in breaking into that top echelon and mixing things up a bit. Just looking at the number of newer programs who still manage to have three or more teams, I think this could be a leg up to newer teams as well.

                    I will acknowledge again, that this might have a mild negative impact on smaller newer schools trying to break into ORCS (again, TheGhostofChaseMichael may have a solution to that), but in the end, I think the question of who benefits from the cap comes down to whether we want the unfairness to be about big programs vs. small programs or about resources/coaches. Holding onto the cap benefits heavily coached will funded programs at the top levels. Getting rid of the cap benefits large programs (especially those that have been around for a while). I would much rather reward programs for being large and long lasting (meaning that they are bringing AMTA to a lot of people) than I would reward programs for being resource/coach heavy. And again, this is just one factor in a long litany of reasons.


                    I agree with TheGhostofChaseMichael that your stats are a bit misleading in that they reflect all open bids not just those that are the result of the C-E team cap. I’d also point out that with the remaining open bids (the ones not from the cap) and the 24 extra open bids I proposed you would have upwards of thirty open bids each year, which is more than we have now, not less.

                    You pointed out a few places where an A team had a harder schedule that a C/D team that would make it through on my plan. But that argument cuts both ways. If we are going to say that UCLA D shouldn’t make it through when Arizona doesn’t because Arizona lost to them, then we should also ask ourselves why Chicago D shouldn’t be allowed to go through when Wheaton (who they beat in the 3rd round) was. Similarly, we can see issues between just A teams where someone makes it through after losing to someone who didn’t make it through. But all of that has far more to do with the fact that our tab system, while excellent (kudos to our tabulation advisory committee) isn’t perfect, than it does with the matter of C team elimination.

                    I think your other concerns about the open bid system were addressed by
                    TheGhostofChaseMichael, so I’ll leave that to him/her.


                    I would certainly be happy with that compromise. I think it would help to bring the benefits I suggested from removing the team limit while also improving upon the current situation with newer teams.
                    Last edited by The_Quibbler; January 31st, 2018, 11:39 AM.


                    • #11
                      As someone who spent last year captaining a C team with a shot at qualifying to ORCS, I have a lot of Opinions on this. It sucks to go into regionals knowing it might not even matter how well you do. It sucks more when A and B teams compete and qualify at an earlier regional than their C-E teams, who then go in knowing it definitely doesn't matter how well they do. So my instincts are very much "of course C teams should be able to go on if they qualify". But I'm not sure those instincts are right.

                      There's been a lot of discussion in this thread of the stats this change would affect. It's definitely important to look at the scale of this, whether allowing more teams from a school would affect five teams or fifty. And there are a lot of interesting points about how to keep the open bid list the same size or make sure C-E teams can't take open bids. But when it comes down to it, any change that allows C-E teams to qualify to ORCS prevents an equal number of A/B teams from other schools from qualifying, so it really is simply a question of whether it's better to have young teams from strong programs or any teams at all from new/weaker programs.

                      And that's a difficult question. It's not easy to say who "deserves" it more or even which option will be better for AMTA and competition as a whole. Allowing young competitors to get postseason experience early will certainly make them better by their senior year, but I don't know how that would affect other teams or even their own programs.

                      I lean towards disagreeing with the proposed change. I don't think it's a crazy suggestion. But I think it would primarily end up only helping the top programs pull even further ahead, and it would make it even harder to take on the already daunting task of building a new program. As Adevans mentioned, there are already a dozen ways in which it's easier to do well if your program did well the year before (invites to top tournaments, TPR averages of other teams at your regionals being lower, experienced returning members, etc). And ultimately those talented young competitors who start off on C teams of big programs have a future, and have a good chance of competing at a national level by the end of their time in college. I'm not sure giving them an extra year or two of ORCS is worth taking away the only shot of seniors who may be working just as hard on new or weaker programs.

                      On a side note, I think the comment about this increasing predictive power because C-E teams aren't ranked right now is an important but almost completely separate issue. Of course there needs to be some numerical representation of the fact that teams like UCLA C will be a threat to A teams of other programs. But maybe that can be addressed by some (even lower-weighted) tpr points based on regional placement for teams that don't continue to ORCS.


                      • #12
                        I really agree with a lot of what the consensus seems to be. I actually think that AMTA should first expand ORCS to maybe be 28 teams or so as proposed by a couple of people, and then once that change is in mind, maybe the discussion of allowing 'C' teams to make ORCS can be re-opened. Although, this would also make making it out of ORCS even harder, and I am unsure of AMTA's willingness to increase the national field.

                        I also thought kmcf8's point about power ranking regionals is an excellent point. I think this brings about a question in itself of how the power ranking system works. Many teams will have a 'D' team that winds up doing better than their 'A' team, but this is reflected in the Power Ranking for the A team. I think that for programs like this (Thinking of UCLA, Rhodes, etc.) there needs to be a way to acknowledge that a D team could be just as big a threat. For example, last year UCLA A didn't make it out of regionals, yet B-E all did, and with very strong records. Is it fair to record that E team as a 277 (or lower) Power Ranking and the A side as 5th in the nation? That is a huge swing in terms of the average TPR, but probably not as huge a swing in terms of actual talent level. Many teams even remain unstacked/balanced through regionals, this makes it really unfair for the C and below teams to be considered unranked compared to a high ranked A side.

                        Although AMTA doesn't do this, consider if they wanted about 4 teams from the top 100 TPR in each region, and a total of 8 from the top 200. Lets say you add in UCLA C/D, Arizona C, and UC Berkeley C. All four of those teams are probably going to be the equivalent of top 100 teams, so all the sudden you have 8 teams that all are top 100 team quality. Those 4 teams in the top 200 are getting screwed by this since they were supposed to be competing with just 4 teams "better" than them based on power rankings, but now they have to deal with 8.

                        The best example this year is the Columbia Regional, where we have 4 teams in the top 100: GT A, Duke A, Duke B, UNC A, then 3 more in the top 100-200: UGA B, Kennesaw State A, and UNC B. But, we need to take into consideration: Florida C/D (A is 23, B is 84), FSU C (A is 36, B is 211), Furman C/D (A is 44, B is 127), GT C (A is 4, B is 192), UGA D (A is 32, B is 148, Alabama C (A is 73, B is 121). That is an additional 8 teams that all have a B team power ranked. Both Florida teams are in the top 100, and Furman, Alabama, and UGA have both teams in the top 150. Nobody would be surprised to see the 7 teams be: GT A, Duke A, Duke B, Florida C, Florida D, Alabama C, and UGA B. That isn't including UNC A (97) and B (166). Regionals are supposed to be hard, but for a program with two teams as highly ranked as that, it is wrong that they need to beat that many top teams to make it out.

                        There must be some way to take into account the power of a program's C and D teams aside from ORCS performance (possibly basing it off of past Regional performances).


                        • #13
                          With regard to the question of power ranking C tams, I think there is a clear way of doing it for AMTA: factor regionals ballots into TPR. They can discount regionals ballots to being worth ½ as much as ORCS ballots, just as ORCS ballots are worth ½ as much as nationals ballots (so last year’s regional ballots would be multiplied by 1.25, the ones from the year before would be multiplied by 0.75, and the ones from the year before that would be multiplied by 0.25). As with the ORCS/Nationals ballots, if someone competed at ORCS but did poorly, their regional ballots would be counted instead of their ORCS ballots.

                          This would be nice in that it would clearly delineate the strengths of various teams. Not only would it give C/D teams ranks (so that there is no longer an issue where they are ranked as very easy teams but may, in fact be very hard teams), it would help to create a gradient in the currently unranked A teams. Right now there is no differentiation between schools that have barely missed ORCS for the last three years (4 ballots per year for example) and schools that have lost every ballot by huge margins every year. There is often a huge strength difference between those teams but right now our ranking system doesn’t take that into account. The majority of teams in AMTA are unranked (there are 277 ranked teams and 700+ teams total) so this is a very large collection of teams to lump together. The result is somewhat imprecise rankings and difficulties with balance at the regional level (luckily this balances out and TPR is far more accurate at ORCS).

                          With all that being said, I think kmcf8 is quite wrong to suggest that this is a matter entirely separate from the C team elimination issue. If you allow regional ballots to count, but don’t allow C-E teams to advance to ORCS, they will still be rank capped at a much lower level than their true ability. The maximum number of TPR points a team could earn by competing at regionals would be 8x1.25+8x0.75+8x0.25=18 which would place them at 83rd in the rankings. Many of them, if allowed to compete at ORCS would actually end up ranked much higher. So you still end up with big inaccuracies in ranking unless C-E teams are allowed to advance to ORCS/Nationals.


                          • #14
                            TheGhostofChaseMichael I think this is a great idea. I think you brought up an excellent point about the fact that a team that gets 4 wins and barely misses ORCS is very different then a team who has gotten 0 wins for each of the last 3 years, or even a brand new program. Also while you are right that it still caps the C-D teams it least they are somewhat ranked and it will give a better indication of their strength. If this is the case though, I wonder if we would actually reflect the actual team that moves on to ORCS from a program (e.g. choose the top 2 teams to move on, but if a B and C team move on to ORCS, maybe have the ORCS points go to that C team rather than the A). This would mitigate the issue you point out, and it would accurately reflect teams whose A team isn't infallible and they instead send two teams to ORCS through a sheer numbers game of number of teams.

                            I concede that it still will be hard for C,D,E and even F teams to be as highly ranked, but it least they have a chance under this system to get appropriately ranked.


                            • #15
                              Adevans, to be clear, I would certainly advocate for implementing this system (adding TPR points for regionals) even without removing the C-E team cap. I just think its important to recognize that we won't ever be able to have an entirely accurate way of ranking teams until the cap is removed, so the two issues are not entirely disjoint.