As the number of Districts continues to grow, and Regional areas feel increasingly hemmed in, there is growing concern about the fairness and effect of District teams being able to attend Regionals and getting access to all the benefits of a Regional, while Regional teams are prevented from attending District events at all. This concern, as well as being voiced by teams, is also a concern among Regional Directors from Regional areas and District Leadership. The RD’s feel non-District teams are getting shorted when a team from a District attends a Regional and earns one of the limited number of Championship slots available at that event. At the same time, District teams earning a Championship slot at a Regional often bypass their own District Championship, as there is significantly less incentive to attend, and some in District Leadership feel this is detrimental to the District model. These are fair concerns.
Several solutions to this issue have been proposed, and all have advantages and disadvantages. In an attempt to better understand our options, we surveyed the District teams that traveled to Regionals in 2016, along with Ontario teams that attended more than one Regional in 2016, to ask a few questions about why they traveled to those events. 50 teams total were sent the survey, and 24 responded. The number one reason reported for this travel was to provide students the opportunity to travel, see new places, and potentially visit colleges. The number two reason was the opportunity to earn a slot to Championship. When asked if they would still travel if they were not allowed to win the Chairman’s, Engineering Inspiration, or Rookie All Star awards (but could still earn a slot to Championship by being on the winning alliance or through the Wild Card system), about 62% said they would, about 19% said they were unsure, and the balance said they would not.
For 2017, in an attempt to make this less unfair, while still retaining some of the advantages of this cross-model team travel, we will be making a change to the rules. District teams traveling to Regionals will no longer be eligible for the Chairman’s, Engineering Inspiration, or Rookie All Star awards at those events. Those awards will be preserved exclusively for non-District teams at the event. This parallels somewhat the rules for inter-District play, in which District teams traveling to another District are likewise not eligible for those particular awards. However, District teams still may be members of the winning alliance, earning their way to Championship that way, and may still earn a wild card slot as a member of the finalist alliance. We anticipate no other changes related to this.
I recognize this will be perceived as a partial measure by some, and I agree with that assessment. However, in a year already filled with very significant change, I have real concerns about adding yet another. We will see what real effect this smaller-than-it-could-have-been change has in 2017, and if additional change is needed for the 2018 season, we will make those changes then.