Are all teams treated equally? and Roebling SF 2-3

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any team. I have not mentored a team in three years. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinion of any team. I was not in attendance in Houston, I watched the stream from home. I have talked with people that were at the event, and some of descriptions below are from eyewitnesses at the event. I hold no animosity towards any team involved, and I respect all of them. I am a former mentor of 1771, so accusations of bias are expected.

OK, first of all, I want to congratulate the 6th seed alliance on Roebling, and team 1771 in particular for a brilliant strategy. 1771 seeded 6th by having a very strong cargo game, a mediocre hatch game, a fast strong climb and excellent strategic thinking (not to mention an awesome driver). They were able to win matches by adjusting their strategy as the situation changed. They had an ace in the hole that they did not show during quals at championships, but developed in several matches in district play. That secret was the best defense I have ever seen played by a robotics team.

I have made it public knowledge that I am not a fan of defense if that is all you plan to do. I always told my kids that the goal of the game is to score more points than anyone else, not just go out there and beat on other robots. The way the rules were written, it was obvious early on that that would not be possible this year. Defense would be crucial to winning because there are no protected zones. 1771 has a beast of a drive train (I don’t want to hear any more complaints about wood chassis, I still believe it to be the best material for a FRC robot). In district play they discovered that their driver had a knack for stopping the offense of other bots without getting penalties. They didn’t use it often, but when they did, they were a juggernaut.

During alliance selections, 1771 picked two high powered scoring robots instead of a defense bot. They knew that 231 and 2557 could score plenty by themselves, and they knew they could shut down the offense of any bot. I was amazed that both were overlooked and available. After the selections were over, I realized that this had the potential to be special.

They went through quarterfinals with no hiccups, but the biggest test by far was the semifinal matchup. They had to go up against 148 and the second seed alliance. They ended up beating them three times… well only twice. Allow me to explain. In the first match, alliance 6 outscored alliance two. They had the match won. A slight miscalculation and they hit a red bot on the hab during the endgame and drew a penalty and a 12 point climb. The call was legit, so they lost that match by 4 points. Match two went as planned and they won by 28 points. That takes us to the real gist of my complaints, match three and unequal treatment / non consistent reffing.

At the beginning of the season, it was made clear that they were going to be very strict with timeouts this year. If you are not on the field when the timer reaches zero, you won’t be allowed on the field for the match. I saw at least one match during eliminations at a district event where the team was not on the field but walking towards it with their robot at T=0. The gate was closed, they were not allowed to play, and their alliance was eliminated. I have no problem with this as it was explained beforehand that this was the policy.

Then we have Roebling SF 2-3. A timeout was called. A six minute timer was displayed. The entire field was in view on the stream the whole time. As the timer approached zero, I was shocked that no red robots were in view. All the blue robots were on the field. When the timer reached zero, and no red robots were visible, I was thinking that either they had just forfeited, or FIRST had change the rules. Apparently neither is the case. Almost a full minute elapsed AFTER THE TIMER REACHED ZERO before any red robot approached the field. They were allowed to place their robots on the field as though they had been there on time. Was there another secret rule change that no one was told about? Or do some teams get a 7 minute timeout because of who they are? I don’t know. I would hate to have a match settled for that reason, but rules are rules and should be assessed fairly regardless of who you are or what rule is being applied (meaning tournament rules are as important as match / gameplay) rules.

So they played the match. Again, alliance 6 outscored alliance 2 by a wide margin. The scores were displayed for all to see. It was clear that alliance 6 had won. As 1771 was heading back towards their side of the field, one ref left her position and followed 1771 pointing and raising a penalty flag about 6 times in about 4 seconds. When the results were posted, a magic 27 points in penalties were assigned to alliance 6, and they lost by 6 points. No ref could or would give a reasonable explanation of what the penalties were for. There is an entire thread dedicated to that discussion elsewhere on CD, so I won’t discuss that further.

So, that brings us to the point of this post: are teams treated differently because of who they are? For instance, do hall of fame teams get special treatment and different rules? Do popular team get special benefits? I don’t know. I talked to people from other divisions that had to replay (due to lag) two matches that they had won, and lost both replays. When they lost a match due to lag and asked for a replay, they were told that there wasn’t time. Were they not as valuable as the other teams that had lag? Why were they treated differently?

I still think FIRST is an awesome experience and a great way to reach and inspire kids to become interested in STEM. I have been vocal in the past about bad ref calls and poor rule application. I think it’s time for FIRST to make a change if they want to be taken seriously as a sport or as they like to say, “a varsity sport of the mind”. Is video replay the answer? Maybe. How about professional, paid refs? Maybe. But what is really needed is for all rules to be applied equally and consistently to all teams. There should be no secret rules that refs are told, but are not allowed to tell teams about, but with which teams are expected to comply.


Realistically speaking, probably. I can think of two possible situations:

Firstly a team of “note” potentially draws the penalty. I think it’s easier to assign a harsh penalty to a team you don’t recognize versus a team you don’t recognize and a potential powerhouse team.

Secondly a team with a bad reputation draws the penalty. Some teams very competitive and tend to garner a not-so-good reputation among volunteers. As such, they can find themselves with the short end of the stick in some calls.

This, to me, is the most unacceptable part of this entire situation. Regardless of the outcome, I believe it’s not appropriate for a referee to give any penalty without providing a clear justification (i.e. rule number).

Considering that there were 27 penalty points handed out and it altered the outcome of the match, there is absolutely zero reason why referees should be able to provide a comprehensive explanation.

Frankly, I don’t really care what FIRST intends. Teams pay thousands of dollars to get a chance to compete and FIRST is obligated to provide fair, objective refereeing.

There will always be a subjective component to refereeing, but when that “subjection” is not followed by proper justification and alters the course teams’ season, I think FIRST has not met its end of the agreement.


Are you really advocating that the timeout rules need to be enforced more strictly than they already are? If so, that’s probably one of most ridiculous takes I’ve seen on this site. I’d much rather have matches played with 6 robots on the field, than a 3v0 because of pedantic rule enforcement.

Secondly, I’ve been to events every weekend this season and I’ve yet to see a team barred from the field because they were too late to get there. Maybe this is just an Ontario thing, but leniency to ensure all robots get to play their matches, has been consistently shown at events I attended.


No, I’m advocating that timeout rules should be enforced equally and consistently. If one team gets the send-off for being late all teams should. I think the time-out rules are awful. At districts, teams had to bring the robot on the field with wrong color bumpers and switch them on the field because the time between waiting for the field to clear, then removing your bot from the field, then putting the bot right back on the field didn’t leave any time to swap bumpers. I think the timeout rules should allow for a better team experience instead of schedule adherence.

The whole point of my post was that the rules are not being enforced consistently. As I said, I know of one team that was eliminated in finals because they were seconds late to the field when the time-out ended and were not allowed to play. Why is it different here?

I have talked to members of 1771 and they told me they really could have used another 30 seconds to work on the bot, but rushed to the field before the timer expired because they believed they wouldn’t be allowed to play if they were late. So the red alliance got an advantage that the blue alliance didn’t enjoy.


There is nothing in the rule book stating that robots must be on the field at the end of the timeout. The wording is if they are significantly late, they may be subject to a C7 which says if the action is repeated or significant, then a robot may be disabled. These broad requirements do not enforce any ruling that would force teams to be on the field on the exact last second. It will come down to the head refs decision and most are understanding if a team needs an extra minute to get their bot on. It is clear that 1 minute is not significant, maybe if it was 3-5+ minutes then the ref has to make a call.

Have you ever seen a team not be able to play because they weren’t on the field in time? I think the worst I’ve seen is the alliance got a yellow card for delaying the match. I personally wouldn’t be okay with seeing a team not be able to play because they were a few seconds (or yes, even a full minute) late getting on the field. In that sense, the rule is being applied equitably.

I 100% agree that the timeout rule is enforced with a lot of inconsistency. At North Carolina events, even if you are at the gate when the timer reaches zero, you wouldn’t be allowed on the field. I did not see that type of enforcement at Worlds.

I don’t care how the timeout rule specifically should be enforced (whether it should be enforced like it is in NC or whether it should be enforced like it was at Houston). I do care about the consistency of enforcement across FIRST events.


At the Rhode Island district event this year in the last semi-final 3719 was turned away for being on the field too late.

Back in week 1 at the PCH Gainesville Event, 1414 was barred from the field for not arriving on time.

Just this past weekend, 3476 had the same scenario occur to them.

I don’t like this rule. I also don’t like how inconsistent some calls are made, even in the same venue.


That would be nice. 3646 was disabled in Long Island for being a few seconds late and taking a few extra seconds to set up their robot when they got to the field.

Crappy part was the explanation wasn’t given until the end of the match. They weren’t even bypassed, they got disabled like 2 seconds into the match.

There’s nothing wrong in asking for consistency in enforcement of these rules.

If I recall correctly, 3476 was barred from the field in their last QF match for being a few seconds late.

I can understand the frustration when you see some teams be able to play, while other can’t, because enforcement of the same rule is inconsistent.

However, I do not feel the inconsistency is because of who the team is (maybe it was, but I can’t read minds). If 3646 and 3476 can get disabled or barred, either others should too, or neither should have been because they were slightly late. Either way, inconsistency isn’t acceptable.

For what it’s worth, I find this rule to be silly. My goal is always to ensure to the best of my ability that a match is 3v3. If a team is making a good faith effort to head to the field when T=0, I see no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to play.


In SF-3 at the PCH District Gainesville Event Week 1 one of my team’s alliance members 1414 was barred from getting onto the field because they were ~1 minute late to the field. We were forced to play the tiebreaker match 2v3.

Keep in mind what you are doing here. You are accusing a ref of being biased because DIFFERENT refs enforced the rules differently. I don’t consider that to be okay at all.


Please read the whole post before replying.


At Georgia events also.

At the drivers meeting, the head ref made an announcement that if you were not on the field at T=0, you would not be allowed to play. The directive for this enforcement apparently came directly from FIST headquarters.


Yes, rules should be enforced equally.
Yes, the rules should be more lenient.
Yes, FIRST HQ should do something about this.
Easiest and most effective thing to do would be to email HQ with this concern for the 2020 season. They could clarify this to Head refs and in the game manual.


At the Iowa Regional there was an entire alliance that was at least 5 minutes late to the field. I think they expected for extra time between rounds (but I believe it is only given when a team has to go back to back). I felt really bad for 525 and alliance (they went on to win that round so it didn’t affect standings) that had to wait a really long time. There was no public explanation either to my knowledge.

Either way I posted this just to show it is incredibly arbitrary, and up to the head ref which I think is okay to a degree but there needs to be limits and those limits need to be clearly spelled out somewhere.

C7 is a conduct rule, applying to all matches. The timeout rules are covered in 12.7.4 of the Tournament section. There is no wording about not playing if you are late. That wording came from the head ref at the GA district events, quoted as coming directly from FIRST headquarters. It sounds like NC events got the same message.

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I would argue that rules need to be strictly enforced. Period. If the GDC writes a rule then it is the Ref’s job to enforce that rule fairly and consistently with what’s written in the rule-book. C7 explicitly calls out being late to the field, and that the penalty is disabling the robot for that match (though I think that’s a pretty bad punishment, as expressed by Akash), or worse.

If an alliance calls a timeout and are 20% or more late to the field, I’d consider that significant. If teams are consistently needing more time after a time-out then the rule needs to be changed, not ignored.

If a team is a few pounds overweight they are denied inspection, if a team goes a little bit into the opponent’s half of the field during sandstorm they are given a foul, if a team is late to a match they should be subject to the penalties as given by the manual. The conduct rules should be held to the same standards as the rest of the game manual.


This is the exact blue box.

Teams are expected to have their ROBOTS staged on the FIELD by the end of the
TIMEOUT. Teams that cause a significant delay to the start of a MATCH after a
TIMEOUT are subject to C7.

A significant delay. Standing in the gate when the timer goes off is not a significant delay