Before the 2018-19 manual for VEX Turning Point becomes official on August 17th, I propose to revert back to the best of 3 system for VEX U.
Based on the comments made by members of the GDC in this thread and in this video, it can be derived the reasoning behind switching to best of one was made primarily to eliminate the third member of a highschool/middle school alliance. This new system with two alliance partners effectively eliminates the primary incentive for match-throwing. However, by eliminating the third member, more alliances and a larger bracket were needed to allow a sufficient number of teams to play in the elimination rounds. By having a larger elimination bracket, it had the added benefit of allowing 8 more teams to play in the elimination rounds (in both highschool and VEX U).
While this reasoning makes sense in the context of the highschool and middle school program, it does not hold water for VEX U. The first obvious point is there are no alliance partners in VEX U. There is no incentive to throw matches in order to be the “lucky” third member of a high seed. Throwing matches in VEX U only does harm to the team throwing matches. If the primary reason for switching to best of one was to help eliminate match throwing, the problem is almost non-existent in VEX U.
Where there is a discussion to be held is around the number of teams playing in the elimination rounds.
Of the 14 tournaments that ran qualification matches last season (excluding worlds), only 2 had 16 or more teams. Meaning only 12.5% of tournaments would have seen an increase in the number of teams playing elimination rounds as per the new rules.
While I do not have the projected growth for the number of VEX U teams this upcoming season, I speculate the number of VEX U teams will not increase much (or there could even be a small decline). I speculate this because of the new rule changes to allow 2 robots and requiring teams to use the V5 system. While these are great changes that will benefit the program in the long-term, I suspect there will be first and second year jitters with teams that are unable to compete due the cost increase. Anecdotally, I know of at least two teams in our area that most likely will not continue due to the changes (allowing two trade-ins per VEX U team would really help reduce the cost barrier!).
Last season, there were 6 tournaments that had 12 or more teams. Because VEX U growth is fairly slow (there are only so many universities) and the previously mentioned cost increase could discourage growth, these tournaments will likely only see about 16 teams attending their tournaments in the near-future. If registration for these events does reach 16 teams on the nose plus one or two more, this would mean close to 100% of the teams at these tournaments would participate in the elimination rounds. If this is the case, what it the point of playing qualification matches? To find the one or two teams that don’t get to play? Qualification matches in VEX U are already fairly low stakes (excluding the world championship) as you don’t need a great win loss record to compete in the elimination rounds. One’s exact rank doesn’t matter because there is no real benefit to being the #1 seed vs the #9 seed. Allowing 16 teams to compete in the elimination rounds would make this problem even worse and make qualification matches essentially pointless. You would only need about 2 wins at most events to still make it to the elimination rounds.
The one tournament where having 16 teams play in elims makes the most sense is at the world championship. It was pointed out in this thread before the change to best of 1 that the increase to 92 teams from 62 meant a smaller percentage of teams attending would play in the elimination rounds. The important figure from this thread is the RECF aims to “have the top 20-25% of teams (within a division) compete during the elimination matches.” It should be noted that if the elimination system used in 2017 that had the top 10 teams compete in elims was used in a division with 46 teams (2 divisions, 92 team event), 22% of teams in their division would compete in the elimination rounds, falling within the acceptable range laid out by the RECF.
I don’t see VEX U divisions becoming large enough to fall outside this 20-25% range at the world championship for a couple of reasons. The 92 team capacity was much larger than it needed to be. Before teams outside of the top 5 world skills ranking were invited to the world championship (meaning everyone that earned a spot through traditional means), the VEX U team registration was at approximately 46 teams (I unfortunately do not have a screenshot from the time to support this, but it was around this number). There is still a lot of room for VEX U to grow as a program and fill these spots with teams that earned them through traditional means (like highschool). There is no need to increase the team capacity for VEX U, if anything, it should be reduced (though, I wouldn’t advocate for that).
If the number of teams per division is the same for 2019 but only the top 10 compete in the elimination rounds, there would be a drop from 35% of VEX U teams competing in elims to 22%. Is this drop acceptable? Again, it falls within the RECF’s accepted range of teams participating. I personally would much rather have the 2017 VEX U system for the elimination rounds than the current system. Though, I am curious about what other VEX U competitors have to say about this.
In summary, because VEX U does not have alliance partners or an appropriate number of teams, the justification for changing to best of 1 does not hold water. In the future, best of one would devalue qualification matches to the point of being worthless at all but one tournament (the world championship). The solution is to bring back the best of 3 system with 8 teams. A modified bracket like the one used at the 2017 world championship could be utilized for the 2019 world championship and future world championships.
Thank you for your consideration.
P.S. Turning Point looks like it’s going to be an awesome game! I’m a big supporter of the autonomous line