CONTINUITY IN THE COLLEGE GAME
Unlike in the professional ranks, collegiate squads and programs can’t retool their lineups by trading players they don’t like for the ones they prefer, at least in the formal sense. What makes varsity athletics an interesting and unique animal is the process in which schools bolster and reinforce their ranks. In common parlance, we label these as recruiting, transferring and even pirating.
The levels of success, and lack thereof, of various colleges and universities more often than not hinge on how stacked their rosters are, both for a current campaign and future endeavors. “Stacking” a lineup is arguably the biggest challenge in the collegiate arena, and facilitating the transition from one season to the next by ensuring the smooth entry of recruits is an integral part of that. With this in mind, is there a way to somehow relate personnel changes with levels of success?
Over a four-year period spanning 2007 to 2010, I lined up all the rosters of the eight UAAP squads and seven permanent NCAA member-schools and kept track of the number of personnel changes each team had going into the following season. Changes to PCU’s lineup in the one season they returned (2008), as well as to the Arellano and EAC rosters the year after their inaugural season, were also recorded. The term personnel changes refers to new players – recruits from the high school ranks, college transferees and pick-ups of Filipinos, part-Filipinos or foreigners from abroad – inserted into a lineup to replace players who played the previous year but are not enlisted by squads to compete the following season for whatever reason (i.e. graduation, relegation to team B, transfer, etc.). I then compiled the numbers on a per season basis, beginning from the 2007 campaign up to last year, and got the four-year average per school. Alongside those figures, I kept count of each team’s corresponding total win-loss record in the four-year stretch.
Let’s take Ateneo de Manila University, for example. The Blue Eagles replaced five players from their 2006 team; four from the 2007 squad; four from the 2008 lineup and five from the 2009 roster. Their four-year average is thus 4.5 lineup changes.
It’s interesting to note that the team that made the fewest number of personnel changes went on to capture the UAAP title twice (Ateneo in 2009 and 2010) in the four-year span. In the two other seasons, De La Salle, the 2007 UAAP champions, made five roster changes from their 2005 squad (they were suspended in 2006), which was the third-least that year. The Blue Eagles, who won the title in 2008, made the second-least number of personnel changes that year (FEU had three).
Equally interesting is the fact that, over at the NCAA, the squad that copped the title wasn’t the team that made the least number of personnel moves in three of the past four years. San Beda College was the only team that won the title (2007) with the least number of roster alterations that same season. But while the Red Lions made five lineup changes in 2007, so did four other teams. To drive home the point, San Sebastian College-Recoletos, the 2009 NCAA kings, had to replace seven players from their team the season before. Four more teams made less changes to their squads but still couldn’t win the title. In 2010, the Stags replaced all but two players while San Beda brought in six rookies. And we all know how the Red Lions rewrote the history books that campaign.
Individually, UAAP and NCAA teams that made fewer changes to their lineups displayed a generally higher winning percentage in the four-year period than programs that shuffled their personnel more. In the UAAP, Ateneo and UE, two of the three most successful squads from 2007-10 in terms of win-loss records, averaged less than five personnel changes a season. Only FEU, which overhauled its lineup after the 2006 season, tallied a high personnel turnover rate alongside a winning record. At the other end of the spectrum, the four teams with the worst four-year records registered no fewer than almost six changes a season.