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  • A Full Proposal of Tournament Structure Changes

    People like to talk about problems AMTA has, I wanted to propose a possible solution that I have had for a while, and explain all the details and let people tear it to shreds in the hopes that we can come up with something a lot of people like, and then AMTA's new committee can maybe use!

    I had 3 goals in this proposal:
    1) Fix the AMTA Growth problem for the long term
    2) Ensure that the right teams are moving on from tournaments
    3) Don't screw over anyone in the process

    So here we go, I will start with the easiest hot-fix in my opinion. I believe that our current pairing system for Round 1 is a little silly. We have seen on multiple ocassions this year, almost all the strength is on one side of the case, resulting in R1 and R2 pairings being wacky and having 2-0 teams play 0-2 teams, and giving teams a cakewalk to 4-0 in many cases. Furthermore by not having a true high-high round until R3 (and not having one R4), means that there is only one round to delineate strong from strongest and weak from weakest. I believe that this allows luck to play far too much of a role. The solution I propose is one that maintains the integrity of random pairings, but ensures that both Plaintiff and Defense are mildly equal. Essentially, in a similar way to how Nationals is sorted into two divisions, we would do the first round in the same way. Take teams TPR and then snake them into two groups (in an eight team tournament: 1,4,5,8 on one side, 2,3,6,7 on other). From here you would then do a coin flip to decide which side was P and which was D. Then finally for the actual pairings, you would have them divided into two piles and then pick one from each pile to determine each round pairing. This keeps the TPR fairly divided and hopefully will combat the problems with having all the strong teams on one side or the other. Obviously TPR isn't the only metric that matters, and this doesn't address C, D, etc. teams. I don't have a solution for those just yet, but I think that this is a strong step that doesn't require a whole ton of effort to accomplish.

    Next is the relegation process I have spoken about a lot in the past (I expect push back on this - that is okay, in fact it is the point! Let's find something better, but it least this starts the discussion). So the way I propose this working is:

    All teams that are brand new or have a record of less than 2.5 wins at regionals have a separate tournament prior to regionals (calling it Districts for now). Why? Because this makes regionals into a set size pool. It means that we can cap off regionals at 26 tournaments of 24 teams (7 bids each) and thus stay with only 8 ORCS of 24 teams from each ORCS (minimum of 10 Open Bids to ORCS). By having this earlier round we also would have an open bid list for regionals, so as teams drop out, we can continually fill them so that we are at exactly 24 teams! NO MORE BYE BUSTERS AT REGIONALS! NO MORE 32 TEAM REGIONALS AND 20 TEAM REGIONALS. This makes it easier to power balance as well since all tournaments sizes are the same now! I hope that I have explained reasons why this is good well enough that people understand the benefits. There are some pretty fair arguments as to why this is problematic I will try to address them now:

    The most common response I have heard is: "Everyone should get a chance to compete at regionals especially new teams" - My response: Why? We don't say that about ORCS, why have we decided that regionals is the level that everyone should get a chance at. I truly think that any team that can't get out of their District tournament doesn't need to go to regionals, that being said, up and coming programs should have no problem getting out of their district, and in fact, it is an extra chance for them to practice the case and get judge feedback prior to regionals. This means that ideally everyone has gone to it least one tournament prior to regionals and we hopefully don't have any teams that are completely unprepared. Teams like Juniata this year (first year program who made it to ORCS), should wipe the floor with their districts, and maybe that puts them more on the map for people to be watching at regionals! If a team doesn't get out of their districts, then they are frankly one of the really bottom teams and need to work on their program a bit more. Maybe ending their season a little earlier on is the wake-up call that they need to work a little harder.

    Another issue could be: "But we need more hosts and AMTA reps": My response - Ask and you shall receive! I believe that if AMTA reaches out to specific programs, they may be able to acquire more hosts and hopefully more Reps. I think these district tournaments could be hosted by similar hosts to regionals seeing as it is a separate weekend, but I also think that they are so small that more teams may be willing to host these tournaments.

    I am sure that there are other negatives to this system, but I really want to hear from others. Do the good outweigh the bad? Is there another system I am missing? All I know is, 5 Bids from 9 ORCS isn't working ... I think ORCS had waaay too many open bids. We almost had 4-4 teams making it through... I just think we can have a higher bar for ORCS. Feel free to disagree, but lets find a better solution then!
    Last edited by Adevans; March 18th, 2019, 12:26 PM.

  • #2
    I think this is one of the top issues facing AMTA at the moment, so I'm glad you've put something out there.

    My first reaction is to point to two issues with your plan:

    1. Having a District tournament would be harsh for new schools. First, it's a bit of an insult to make only a subset of schools jump through this initial hoop. On top of that, I'm assuming this tournament would have to be in early November since Regionals/ORCS/NCT are unchanged. That's tough for new schools to have only 1/2 a semester to prep for a tournament that may be their only one of the year. And if they don't qualify, then their season is over before Thanksgiving. I think there's a good case to be made that this system would make it harder for new teams to get off the ground. I certainly understand the counter-argument that it shouldn't be that hard to advance to Regionals, but I think AMTA is usually pretty sensitive to making things harder on new programs.
    2. I think you're making it sound way too easy to get tournament hosts. Sure, a District tournament could be small, but I doubt many programs would want to host a second (or third for some) tournament. Especially if that means giving up a November weekend that is likely a weekend they would compete at a Fall invitational. On top of that, recruiting judges for what's a new/low ranked school tournament is going to be even harder than recruiting for regionals.

    Now I'll add that this type of system deserves to be fleshed out and seriously looked at, despite my concerns above. While it may have draw backs, we should consider if it's an improvement over today's system.

    Alternatively, I would look at simply expanding NCT back to 64 teams. That would give each ORCS site 7 bids (assuming we stay at 9), plus one open bid. If we have to move to 10 ORCS in the future, then we're back to 6 bids/site, with 4 open bids. The challenge to this plan is that a 64 team tournament is massive. But it seems easier to me to find one host of a massive, but prestigious tournament than to find multiple hosts of District tournaments.

    Comment


    • #3
      So as a response, first I'll say this, I have no problem with the tournament being in January. I don't see any reason why it can't be January 20th time and give two weeks before regionals. There is no need to change the case necessarily before regionals so I don't think teams have too tough a turnaround. Also, I think you make a very fair point about AMTA not wanting to make it harder on new schools, but I think this can be seen as somewhat of a positive. It is guaranteeing these teams an extra, amta sanctioned tournament of practice prior to regionals. A lot of teams never go to any invitationals prior to regionals, and this would ensure that they have it least some practice. You guys need to understand that a brand new program doesn't know how to get into invitationals and is certainly not getting invited anywhere. I think giving them more chances to Mock is a good thing! Moreover, I want to reiterate that this wouldn't be a super competitive tournament and any decent new team shouldn't struggle too much to get through, plus there should be a lot of room at regionals so ideally majority of these teams can move on. I don't think it would be outlandish for 50% to move on to regionals!

      As far as finding hosts, I disagree about this. I think that there are so many teams that don't host but could host. We just have to ask them. If AMTA helps with judges, all hosting is going to be is providing rooms basically. AMTA helps find judges, AMTA runs tab, AMTA runs openings/closings... I mean that isn't asking a lot, especially if it is a 12 team tournament or so and you only need 6-7 rooms...

      I also am wondering what people think of the initial idea (to divide the first round pairings into more equal power ranked groups before randomizing pairings).

      And finally, I think expanding Nationals to 64 teams is a short term fix. Even if we can find hosts that could support that (which is tough as is), then we have two new problems:
      1) 32 team tournaments have shown to not be very illustrative of true strength and fall back on luck-of-the-draw a little too much for my liking (see New Haven Regionals).
      2) What do we do once we get too big for 64 team nationals? We can't just keep expanding Nationals... the growth should be dealt with on the front end, not the back end, in my opinion.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think it would be good to work through the numbers to get an estimate of the number of teams that would compete at Districts and what percent would likely qualify for regionals.

        On the timing point though, my understanding (which could be wrong) is that regionals are currently held as early as possible in the Spring semester because there are schools that don't start their Spring semester until the end of January. I'm not totally sure about this though, but that's why I assume Districts would have to be in November. But even if they were around 1/20, that's a really quick turn around for new schools to handle logistics. I would want to hear from people who started new programs to get their thoughts on that though.

        As for hosting, I'd like to hear from someone in the know at AMTA regarding judge recruiting. You make it sound really easy to host with AMTA doing all of the work, but I'm not sure if that would be the case. How much judge recruiting does AMTA even do today?

        Comment


        • #5
          The time issue others have mentioned is the big one here. There simply isn't time to fit in another tournament. Some schools don't start up again until the end of January. Others start mid January, giving teams maybe a week back on campus to prep. And on top of that, I think it creates a serious financial issue for the teams at districts. Now, if they do well, the y potentially have four tournaments they would need to budget for, which is quite difficult. I also think we are really underestimating how hard it is to recruit judges. I know that a bunch of AMTA tournaments right now struggle to get enough judges; that only gets harder with more tournaments.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by tonygomes View Post
            Alternatively, I would look at simply expanding NCT back to 64 teams. That would give each ORCS site 7 bids (assuming we stay at 9), plus one open bid. If we have to move to 10 ORCS in the future, then we're back to 6 bids/site, with 4 open bids. The challenge to this plan is that a 64 team tournament is massive. But it seems easier to me to find one host of a massive, but prestigious tournament than to find multiple hosts of District tournaments.
            Just keep it at 7 bids at 9 ORCS and re-implement the world cup rule.

            Comment


            • #7
              I think the easiest "practical" fix - meaning a fix that addresses the immediate problem, without considering whether it's possible - is to expand the NCT to 64 teams. As many have said, that's an extremely challenging thing to do. That's why I'm very strongly in favor of exploring the proposal made at last year's board meeting to have two different NCT sites, with 32 teams each. The final round is then a "Super Bowl" just a few weeks later, possibly even the next weekend. There are many issues with that proposal, but to me it's the closest thing I've seen so far to something that actually solves the most pressing issue, which is that there are more than 48 teams that probably deserve to advance to Nationals each year - and the size of ORCS adds an element of randomness that keeps some of them out.

              Comment


              • #8
                These suggestions would greatly increase the cost of the activity to everyone involved - especially a new program.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Time issue: You can do it first or second week of December then... I prefer last week of January, but I guess December could work. I come from a late start school and you just have to work over break, its very doable though, we do it every year. Plenty of quarter system schools get screwed by current system's timing and they still do fine (see Northwestern). If it was just one weekend - the last of January, everyone is back from break for sure, some just have less time to prep then others, but I think that those teams just have to deal.

                  Finanical issue: while I doubt that any of these teams that are being relegated would make it all the way to Nationals, it is a fair point, 4 AMTA tournaments is a lot. I view this as one less invitational that those teams would go to though so it should be a pretty fair trade off in terms of finances in my opinion.

                  The judging point is a fair one as well. I don't think AMTA does anything with judging at the moment, but they just put together the committee to help with this in the future. I think that as AMTA grows, so should the judging pool. Ideally, AMTA has a big email list where they email blast all the judges to sign up on google forms for all the tournaments those judges want to attend. Hopefully this would help hosts acquire majority of the judges, and again, a 12 team tournament is pretty doable to find judges for, much harder than a 32 team tournament... My hope is that some of our larger hosts: New Haven, Minneapolis, Claremont, Orlando, Owings Mills, etc. could also host a districts since their regionals are now much smaller so they shouldn't have much trouble finding judges for this.

                  -----------
                  In terms of working through the numbers, this year we had 740 teams compete in AMTA. 624 would go to regionals so districts would have to take care of 116 plus lets say the bottom 6 spots of each regional (another 156), so a total of 272 teams need to go to districts for a total of 156 spots to be allocated.

                  Either we could do:
                  26 districts - 6 bids each from ~10 teams
                  13 districts - 12 bids each from ~21 teams

                  ^As you can see, most teams should get through should we do bottom 6 spots. If we just did bottom 4 spots it would look like this: 116 plus 104, so 220 teams with 104 spots:

                  26 districts - 4 bids from each 8-9 teams each
                  13 districts - 8 bids from each ~17 teams

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bengarmoe View Post
                    I think the easiest "practical" fix - meaning a fix that addresses the immediate problem, without considering whether it's possible - is to expand the NCT to 64 teams. As many have said, that's an extremely challenging thing to do. That's why I'm very strongly in favor of exploring the proposal made at last year's board meeting to have two different NCT sites, with 32 teams each. The final round is then a "Super Bowl" just a few weeks later, possibly even the next weekend. There are many issues with that proposal, but to me it's the closest thing I've seen so far to something that actually solves the most pressing issue, which is that there are more than 48 teams that probably deserve to advance to Nationals each year - and the size of ORCS adds an element of randomness that keeps some of them out.
                    AMTA should cover the cost of travel and lodging for the two teams involved. I really like this...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I don't love Super Bowl only because then people don't get to stay and watch, which is part of the fun of Nationals. Also I don't like separate venues because I love getting to be all in one place with all the other great programs that my program has a relationship with.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I agree that time and cost constraints make many of the good ideas impractical or impossible to implement.

                        If we're getting radical I suggest: (A) a moratorium on new schools/teams until we work out a new system, and (B) capping existing programs, to let's say 3 teams. We keep talking about a growth problem, with no solid solution in sight. We need to think about slowing that growth until we have the infrastructure to handle it. Yes, students of new schools benefit from competing, but there are plenty of other worthy academic and forensic competitions that an undergrad at a non-AMTA school can participate in that would service them. I'm all for exposing as many students to mock trial as we can, but this is triage. If we get a handle on our growth in future years, the moratorium would be lifted. Suggestion (B) about limiting schools to 3 teams pretty much speaks for itself. We can talk about the great 4 or 5 or 6 team programs whose students would be hurt by this, but again it's triage. If they want to field more than 3 teams and take them around to invitationals and intra-school competitions, the schools can. But, the impetus would be on the school to narrow it down themselves before AMTA competition. These suggestions start shaving down the numbers and make regionals hosting numbers look a little more manageable.

                        Continuing on with unorthodox ideas, AMTA could and should think about recognizing invitationals performance and awarding byes to teams that go straight on to ORCS, instead of competing at regionals, based on the strength of their performances in that invitational season. AMTA does not participate in or oversee invitationals now, and draws a line in the sand between invite season and regular season, but just because that's how it's always been doesn't mean that should remain the case. Other extracurricular competitions allow multiple qualification paths. Why not us? The sole purpose of this proposal is to lessen the number of teams at regionals, to help our hosts manage. You can pick this idea apart because it will need to have a process in place that evaluates the quality of the invitational wins. For instance, a winning record at a "bad" tournament won't earn a bye. But a certain number of ballots at a certain number of tournaments containing a certain percentage of previous ORCS participants would earn a bye. We can cap the byes at a particular number, and proportionately reduce the bids that can be earned out of Regionals. This is intended to be a limited avenue that primarily recognizes the teams that breeze though regionals. You are welcome to complain that it is elitist, because it will probably end up being an avenue used by the powerhouses. I'm ok with that. Because again, we have a growth problem we need to fix, and that requires making hard choices that pit competing interests against each other. Moving the elite teams straight through to ORCS is a similar idea as the Districts idea, in the sense that we are both trying to make the regionals pool smaller. But, my idea is free for AMTA to implement and doesn't require a whole new round of competitions and hosts, and doesn't add to anyone's schedules.

                        I think a problem with expanding NCT to 64 teams is that you need a city that has 32 courtrooms in a building or buildings willing to host us. It's harder than you'd think to find a city that can accommodate that need. It's a huge number of rooms, well over the capacity of the average state or federal courthouse. If you're trying to combine buildings across town to get enough rooms, you're adding big logistical hurdles. Des Moines had facilities that worked, but I don't think they have the hosting capacity there anymore. And some of the cities that have hosted Nats recently would have major challenges trying to host again, because students have done such a poor job of following facility rules that the courthouses are reluctant (or just refusing) to host us again. I'm throwing this out there, because we can talk about increasing the NCT bids, but without a viable location, the idea doesn't work.

                        Lastly, I think that we need to revisit the idea of seeding and schedules, and I like adevans' suggestion for those as a starting point. I'd even suggest it for ORCS. All of us looking at ORCS tabs see that some teams get 4 monster rounds while others squeak through on the backs of lower quality teams. I'm not going to name school names, because it's unfair to those students to suggest their particular success is unearned - all they can do is beat the teams placed in front of them. But, we can and should complain about the system that placed those teams in front of them, if it means an unequal distribution of competitiveness that doesn't actually help us find the best teams. We should be concerned about a system that gives trophies to teams with a CS of 12, when there are teams on the edge of bid- eligible who ended up with 22 or 23 CS. I know these forums have threads going back years about failed proposals to seed tournaments or predetermine some strength of schedule somehow, but I think we need to bring that idea back around and let the new generation of AMTA thinkers work on it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I feel like regionals could be a diversion point for the seeding system. There were several regionals with very lackluster CS scores getting bids

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I think the issues of finding hosts, recruiting judges, scheduling, and creating more barriers for new programs makes this too unpalatable to be a practical solution. Having participated in the hosting of AMTA tournaments, I can say that AMTA provides relatively little help on recruiting judges. They often check in on judge recruitment, and offer some advice on how to recruit judges, but AMTA actually recruiting judges for the tournament is laughable - that responsibility is on the host. Hopefully this will change in the future.

                            There's also a financial issue to be had here. Part of the reason AMTA has enough hosts (barely) as it is, is because they pay programs well for hosting. While we don't know the financials of AMTA, adding another layer of tournaments would mean likely paying the hosts of those tournaments, which would be a not insignificant chunk of change.

                            I do agree that there needs to be a bottom up solution to this problem. I am intrigued by the idea of using the invitational season as a qualifier system for Regionals. I don't think expanding the NCT to 64 teams is a wise decision. The only way this is viable in my opinion is if AMTA creates a permanent annual host, that can year after year recruit consistent judging. But then I would like to see this host be unaffiliated with a team to eliminate a massive institutional advantage. Disaffiliating the host from any program, would then make hosting more difficult though. I think expanding the NCT to 64 teams also makes the results of the then 32 team divisions more random and luck based (see, large regionals results), which is not an outcome we want to see when crowning a national champion. To overcome this, the NCT would likely also need to expand to 6 rounds.

                            In regards to the Round 1 side determination issue, I think this is a change that should have been implemented years ago.
                            Last edited by STC; March 18th, 2019, 04:51 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              A few things I will add:

                              First, to address the seeding: while I agree we should talk about it, ultimately mock is so subjective this problem (the idea of less deserving teams advancing over more deserving teams) will never be truly fixed. One easy fix not already mentioned could be as simple as requiring three judges per round at ORCS. I get especially annoyed at the +25 -1 splits I see, because I know the types of judges that those -1's are usually coming from: the type that gives 9s and 10s to everyone with no care to differentiate. Three judges would, at least in theory, turn those +25 -1 splits into +25 +15 -1 splits, much less damaging. And more ballots and judges is always a good thing.

                              Turning to the overall tournament issue: I think the most meritorious idea I have seen is limiting programs to only 3 teams. This would at least limit massive growth (D,C,E, and F teams) sufficiently and I don't like the idea of prohibiting new schools from joining: we don't know when we will be prohibiting a Colorado College or Juniata from joining the year they are bound to make an ORCS/NCT run. The problem with this districts idea, to me, really is timing and logistics, which as much as we would want to set aside for purposes of discussing the hypo, really can't be ignored here. There are so many different timings across schools for leaving/returning from Fall break, Thanksgiving break, winter break, etc. Some schools I know return within days of Jan 1, while others don't until the third or fourth week of January. This, on top of finding another dozen AMTA host sites (when it sounds like they are barely able to find any more than currently exists) sounds infeasible to me.

                              This is a great discussion though, I'd love to hear more thoughts on this issue.

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