Thanksgiving Leftovers

by | December 3, 2013, 10:48pm 0

We’ve entered the slowest time of the year for ultimate.  Club is over, the college kids are actually thinking about academics for the last time until the May panic….it’s time to rest up and do something else.  Or, if you’re obsessive, to watch film, hit the weights and run 400s.

Since we just had Thanksgiving, I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to all the folks who donated to the Skyd fundraising campaign.  It is really cool to see everyone come through and appreciate all the hard work Elliot and crew has done (and continues to do).  It’s really cool that Skyd will live on another year.


I was thinking about the rankings this week and then Ultiworld ran a little piece on gaming the system.  (If you need an exhaustive back story, start here.)  In keeping with my leftovers theme, I’m going to ramble a little bit.  Everyone always freaks out about the rankings, but I think it is instructive to look closely at the conclusion Shriner comes to in his article – the best way to earn bids is to play good teams and beat them by a large margin.  Hm.  I hadn’t thought of that.   A couple recent developments to keep in mind.   First, the addition of the ‘forfeit’ rule (wisely worded to provide flexibility of enforcement) should keep egregious cheating in hand.  Second, the Corvegas Problem is largely fixed through an adjustment to the algorithm.  These games are given minimal weight while maintaining connectivity.  From the USAU rankings page:

“One exception to the above are games where the higher ranked team wins the game by a large enough point differential to get X=2/3 from formula (1).  Such results are given a negligible weight (10^-9), so that the connection remains without having that result impact the ranking of those two teams.”

I still have some concerns about the algorithm.  For the most part, the rankings pass the eyeball test, but the situation with Victoria last year raises some red flags.  They went south and won the Santa Barbara Invite over a lot of U-23 try-outs depleted teams and lost a single dgp game at the Stanford Open.  Their SB Invite win floated them on top of the SW teams the entire year and so despite playing only 7 rostered games, they earned the NW a fourth bid.  The entire NW had a ‘I can’t believe this fell in our lap’ attitude about the fourth bid and it will have some really positive effects up in the left corner.  Here’s the screen shot of the top ten from the rankings used for determining bids.

Rank   Team   PR Region Conf W – L
1 Oregon 2195 NW CAS 18 – 1
2 Carleton College 2124 NC WNC 16 – 5
3 Ohio State 2112 OV OH 14 – 7
4 Tufts 2107 NE BOS 12 – 3
5 British Columbia 2085 NW CAS 12 – 4
6 Iowa 2061 NC WNC 22 – 4
7 Washington 2004 NW CAS 10 – 4
8 Iowa State 1981 NC WNC 18 – 3
9 Victoria 1975 NW CAS 6 – 1
10 Georgia 1935 SE SAPP 14 – 5

I don’t want in any way to denigrate Victoria’s quality as a team; they’ve put in a lot of work over the last several years to build and grow their program and I anticipate them being better this year than they were in 2013.  But this situation does highlight the two big drawbacks in the algorithm as it currently exists – connectivity and insufficient data.  These two demons have been discussed exhaustively, so rather than rehash the same arguments I will propose a few solutions all of which are an increased burden on teams.

1.  Require 10 preseason games to earn Regionals bids or attend Regionals.

2.  Require 15 preseason games to earn Nationals bids or attend Nationals.

3.  Require attendance for at least one out-of-Region tournament for all Nationals-bound teams.


I guess the holidays have me feeling a little sentimental because I want to talk about some of my favorite things.  In no particular order, my three favorite things about ultimate are practice, winning the fields and the moment you know you are going to get the block.  For a more artistic version of this, check out the lovely little video Fugue made about it for the Why My Coach Rocks contest (although I don’t know why they had to show me getting trucked by Chase and Big Jim):

I’d love to hear your ultimate favorites. Add them below if you want to share.



There are some good reasons for refs, but accuracy isn’t one of them.  (1, 2, 3)

This time of year I watch a lot of football and I’ve been paying special attention to how wide receivers drive and control defenders particularly against press man defense.  The ultimate analogy is the 3 cut.  Too often, 3-cutters settle for the easy 10 yard under.  The greatest 3-cutters drive and move their defenders to manufacture yardage and advantage.  Check out this video, while it isn’t as good as game footage, it does show a ton of different routes.  The press coverage ones are most applicable to ultimate and be careful, the soundtrack is horrid.

If you haven’t read the interview with Dom, you should.  She’s one of the all-time greats.


As always, questions to

Feature photo by Alex Fraser –

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