Frank Stranzl

The Cal Poly softball team got snubbed – again. Chelsea Green and Teresa Miller have played their final games in Mustang uniforms and coach Jenny Condon’s team will again sit through the off-season wondering what went wrong.

Despite finishing third in the Big West and playing a brutal non-conference schedule, the NCAA selection committee found a way to slight the Mustangs – a recurring theme on the San Luis Obispo campus.

Last season the Mustangs finished in second place and were leapfrogged by third place Cal State Fullerton for a trip to the NCAA tournament. This year it was fourth place UC Santa Barbara skipping over the Mustangs for a tournament bid.

The culprit: It all comes down to a computer ranking system known as the RPI.

Think about the BCS, a computer-generated figure that determines which teams play for college football’s national championship and you have got the gist of the RPI. The equation balances figures such as strength of schedule, road wins, bad losses and other intangibles.

Cal Poly’s performance warranted a No. 70 RPI ranking at WarrenNolan.com. The Gauchos were just ahead at No. 59.

The NCAA won’t reveal the exact method they use to select which teams dance and which teams ride the “left out” bench, but computers have increasingly found their way both into the selection process as well as the ensuing controversy.

Computers are smart, don’t get me wrong here. They can process vast amount of information and whip out facts and figures at the click of a button, but they can’t think.

We, as humans, have a responsibility to call out, “Erroneous!” when the computed statistics come out wrong.

The computer system gave UC Santa Barbara an edge over Cal Poly – presumably for its win over No. 10 Stanford. Cal Poly’s best win came against No. 23 Fresno State.

Nevermind that Cal Poly defeated the Gauchos on two-of-three occasions; never mind that the Mustangs finished ahead of the Gauchos in the Big West standings; never mind that the Gauchos managed just an 8-10 record in Big West play.

It doesn’t matter how many quality wins you have or what conference you play in, if you have a sub .500 conference record, you don’t make it to post-season play. Call it the “Less-Than-Average Clause,” if you can’t beat the teams in your own conference more than half the times you play them, you’re not a tournament-caliber team.

It doesn’t matter if you are playing in the Big West, the Big East or the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference – if you can’t take care of business in your conference, you do not deserve a chance to play for a national championship.

And what about Cal Poly taking two-of-three games from UCSB? Shouldn’t that tidbit of information play at least a semi-significant role in selection process? Why play conference games if they don’t matter?

Common sense should prevail in these situations.

Unfortunately, this issue won’t be resolved. Had it been USC jumping over UCLA for a tournament bid in men’s basketball, people would have noticed.

However, a conflict in softball between Cal Poly and UCSB of the Big West Conference isn’t soon going to find its way onto the front page of the Los Angeles Times. The world thinks less of softball and the regionally-recognizable Big West.

The same scrutiny facing the selection process for men’s basketball needs to be applied to all sports. Why does UCSB get the nod over Cal Poly? Why did Cal State Fullerton surpass the Mustangs in 2005?

Why even play conference games if they don’t have value in the selection process? That’s the message the NCAA selection committee is sending.

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