Over the weekend, I made a bad call. I was contacted by the field at the Silicon Valley Regional about Team 1323, MadTown Robotics, regarding a backup coupon they had turned in during the Semi Finals. My understanding at the time was that 1323 had called for a backup team for themselves, but had repaired their robot later and still wanted to participate in the match. I told the field this should not be allowed, as requesting a backup team, like requesting a timeout, is a strategic decision that a team must make, and there is no provision in the rules for allowing a team to change their minds later based on how potential repairs are progressing or for any other reason.
I learned later that there was some question about whether 1323 had intended to request a backup team, or had accidentally submitted the wrong form, believing they had instead requested a timeout. I contacted the team, along with the FTA and Head Referee, to get their understanding of the full sequence of events. After reviewing the information, I now believe the team had intended all along to call a timeout, but in the rush to get the form submitted, did not notice they were using the wrong one. There were a few brief conversations between the team members and the Head Referee during this situation, but with the Head Referee believing with good reason the team had requested a backup, and the team believing with good reason they had requested a timeout, they had different contexts for those discussions, so the full nature of the issue took time to reveal itself.
The team did submit their backup coupon, but had I believed at the time this was an accident, I would have allowed them to compete. While I can’t undo what has been done, as a measure of compensation for the team, I am offering Team 1323 a Wild Card slot to the 2014 FIRST Championship. Their original alliance partners, Team 846, The Funky Monkeys, and Team 2135, Presentation Invasion, have already earned their slots at Championship. With this offer, I am not attempting to suggest the outcome of the event would have been different had 1323 been allowed to compete. There is no certain way to predict that. The Winners and Finalists of the 2014 Silicon Valley Regional are still the Winners and Finalists, and this takes nothing away from those significant accomplishments.
To prevent this from happening again, we are changing the backup coupon to require the Alliance Captain to enter the number of the team whose robot is being replaced, and to initial the coupon. Head Referees will be instructed to not accept the coupon unless these elements are present. This should help prevent this issue in the future.
I apologize to the teams involved in this situation, and the community, for the stress this caused. I want to emphasize that I believe all key volunteers at the event were doing their very best with a confusing situation, and had the best interests of FRC at heart. We have some great volunteers at SVR. I made the final call, so the ultimate responsibility for the result lies with me.