What’s the RPI and How Does it Work?

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There’s lots of college softball polls, what do they all mean?

Make sure you know why the RPI is a super important poll.

There are a couple of different Division I softball polls – there’s the ESPN/USA Softball poll, and the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll. As of this writing, both of these polls had Oklahoma as the top team.

Then there’s the Women’s Softball RPI which also lists Oklahoma as #1.

So to help you make heads and tails out of it all, here’s some background into the RPI and what it means:

  • The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) originally was created in the late seventies at the request of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. It is one of the many tools used in the selection process.
  • The basic factors of the RPI and their weighting are the same for every sport:
    • 1. Division I Winning Percentage – 25%
    • 2. Strength of Schedule – 50%
    • 3. Opponents’ Strength of Schedule – 25%

The important question is which poll matters most, and how are they used? Basically, the RPI is the most important of the three polls listed above, and the NCAA describes its importance in the following way:

How much does the committee depend on the RPI compared with other factors?

The RPI is just one of many factors used by the committee. Each committee member must weigh each factor available and make his or her own decision regarding its importance. Clearly, the RPI will be more helpful to a committee member when evaluating a team out of out his/her region, especially if he/she has never seen them play. If a committee member is evaluating two or more teams, a wide difference in RPI rank can be a factor. How “wide” is “wide”? A good rule of thumb is 20 or more ranking places, as well as the actual mathematical difference between RPI rankings.

As the end of the college softball regular season draws near, teams start vying for their conference title and their “automatic berths”. After that, every team that gets into the 64 team postseason does so with “at-large berths”, and that’s where a team’s RPI really matters.

Hopefully this clears things up a bit, and best of luck to your favorite college team!

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