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


I can name two instances where getting the robot to the field on time was enforced very strictly for 1551 – once at Champs 2010; we were thirty seconds late getting the robot on the field after a traffic jam of robots prevented us getting onto to the field despite sprinting from the gazillion-miles-away pits. They let us on, had us set up, and then disabled our robot as penalty for a field delay. Terrifically inspiring.

The second was Buckeye a few years ago, where after a timeout our alliance partner was told that if they were not on the field when the time out buzzer hit zero, they would not be allowed to compete. They bailed and put in a surrogate, and two minutes later had a fully-functional, field-ready robot…about ten seconds before the time out buzzer sounded (but not enough time to be on the field and staged). Very inspiring.

I have also witnessed other teams at these same events getting much more leeway.

So I get it, refs are human and they’re volunteers and event delays are terrible for everyone, but I agree both with the OP that in general a greater a mount of consistency would be good and with Karthik/Matt/et al that the benefit of the doubt should go to teams getting their robots to the field, always.

(I’ve also had 1551 turned down for a match replay for the exact reasons that other teams have been granted match replays, at the same event and with the same people making the call, so I get that, too. Even if it’s not intentional favoritism, it can certainly look like it sometimes.)

tl;dr version: We’re engineer-types. We all want crystal clear, cut-and-dried rules for each situation, except when we don’t.


Worth adding: Overall, in the past 20 years my FIRST experiences have been much better than these instances. Overall they do an excellent job.


But there certainly is a correlation with losing then, for both alliances.


I’m not a fan of the card system (I’d prefer that we just straight DQ for major purposeful infractions and not carry cards), especially for things like kids sticking their arms onto the field or stepping over the guardrail. I think we can come up with a better method of enforcement for these things that doesn’t cover a team’s number in yellow highlight.

1 Like

I would hope that if somehow there ever ended up being a 3v0 playoff match that the 3 robot alliance would not move and force a replay with a 0 to 0 tie.


There’s a lot of good discussion going on here, but I’m worried that there are a lot of different assertions/questions in OP that left untracked can easily become inflammatory, or perhaps worse, result in failing to contest latent incidious assertions even as evidence changes. The thread title, for instance, seems like a bad thing to let stand here for students without fully examining the implied logic and complicating evidence. There are a half-dozen conflate topics that probably deserve their own process improvement threads but not much on the original contention of bias:

’1) Timeout rules are being inconsistently enforced across FRC: Uncontested. We have reports of buzzer enforcement in some regions and “let them play” enforcement elsewhere. This has been true in my experience and others reported on this thread for years. I and it seems everyone here so far agrees they should be consistent. I think it’s definitely worth pursuing on this thread (or another) what to do about it.

’2) “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”: Inconsistent. Per #1, does the muddling on this theard change views of the following topics? Particularly the assertion of difference between teams rather than settings.

’3a) The 2019 Roebling SF 2-3 timeout should have been enforced at the buzzer: Unclear logic. This is not a logical correlary of #1. given the Inconsistency in #2. There is no a priori reason why inconsistency should default to the worst-case scenario for teams, and in fact good evidence that it shouldn’t in FIRST’s intended culture.*
’3b) The incident in #3a violated written rules (sufficient but not perhaps necessary for #2): Subjective call. The timeout section redirects to C7 per “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.” Where: “C7. Be prompt/safe when coming to and going from the FIELD. DRIVE TEAMS may not cause significant or repeated delays (during the event) to the start of a MATCH and/or to the FIELD reset after the MATCH. Violation: If prior to the MATCH, the offending DRIVE TEAM’S ROBOT will be DISABLED. If after the MATCH, YELLOW CARD.” The subjective nature of “significant” means the teams did not and cannot definitely violate C7 without consistent external authoritative guidance.

’4a) There were multiple penalties called in 2019 Roebling SF 2-3 for which “no ref could or would give a reasonable explanation of what the penalties were for”: Apparently true; not legally wrong. These foul points do exist. No CD post so far has indicated as direct Head Ref explanation though none is technically required. There is a discussion in progress here that shouldn’t be unilaterally summarized, so I’ll just try to break it into constituent assertions. thread
’4b) Refs do not have to explain fouls: Factually true; culturally frustrating. Per 12.2, “While FMS tracks quantities of FOULS, FIRST instructs REFEREES to not self-track details about FOULS; as a result, we don’t expect REFEREES to recall details about what FOULS were made, when  they occurred, and against whom. Any reasonable question is fair game in the Question Box, and Head REFEREES will do  good faith efforts to provide helpful feedback (e.g. how/why certain FOULS are being  called, why a particular ROBOT may be susceptible to certain FOULS based on its design or game play, how specific rules are being called or interpreted), but please know that they will likely not be able to supply specific details.” That said, open discussion on how to minimize non-explaination of tournament-changing calls eould seem very well aligned with FIRST culture.*
’4c) The penalties were illegitimate/the result of unfair treatment: Unsupported. There is no evidence thus far of this, and several analyzers have proposed valid (if #4d inconsistent) violated rules. Not conclusively disproven but not supported thus far.
’4d) The penalties were are result of inconsistently enforced rules: Apparently true. There are lengthy discussions and accounts of different enforcements on the thread linked above. I think resolution of this phenomenon (whether the phenomenon be the appearance of inconsistency or the existence of it) is definitely worth and already under discussion.
’4e) The penalties were not adequately officially explained: Arguably true. There’s no clear violation of the letter of the rulebook per #4b, and the events are not comprehensively detailed in first-person accounts. However as with #3a, we can and many have reasonably asserted that more official public explanation is warranted in alignment with FIRST culture.*

’5a) Not all lag phenomena result in a replay: Uncontested. This I believe is factual, appropriate, and not under dispute. Several official arena fault causes listed in 12.3 (broken element, field power failure, improper FMS activation) can manifest as lag. However, lag can also have numerous other causes that are not arena faults, i.e. are on the robot side. Moreover, arena faults do not automatically lead to replays per the rules: rather “If, in the judgment of the Head REFEREE, an ARENA FAULT occurs that affects the outcome of the
MATCH and any team on the affected ALLIANCE desires a replay, the MATCH will be replayed.” This leads to further legitimate inconsistency in cases where the head ref does not believe it affected match outcome.
’5b) A replay cannot be denied solely on the basis of not having enough time: Factually true. This cause is not caveated in the quoted statement above. Per the letter of the rules, if an arena fault occurs and the head ref believes it affected the match outcome, the match will be replayed.
’5c) A Match replay at Houston champs (unnamed decision(s)) was incorrectly denied based on 5b: Evidence requested. Asserted with no other information. Can you elaborate?
’5d) 2 match replays in the same setting as #5c were granted: Evidence requested. Asserted with no other information. Can you/someone elaborate?
’5e) The discrepancy between #5c and #5d was due to an unfair difference in team treatment rather than a legitimate reason outlined in #5a: Evidence requested. This is questioned but not discussed in substance. Can you elaborate?

’6) The events described in 3a, 4a, and 5e are a result of bias toward particular teams: Opposing evidence. Viewing the larger body of evidence regarding other inconsistent enforcement and explanation of timeouts and penalties, there appear to be clear correlations for differences across events. No clear correlation of inconsistency has been presented for differences across team numbers (e.g. within an event). #6 is not conclusively disproven but not supported thus far.

’7) Broadly, some FRC teams are treated differently because of who they are: Unsupported herein. Currently everyone in positions of authority in FRC is currently human to the (best our knowledge). Humans have subconscious biases that may act both for and against any particular team. Do these biases have a notable trend for or against, as mentioned, powerhouse or Hall of Fame teams? I haven’t seen any evidence clearly isolating this phenomenon. That discussed above appears to more clearly isolate differences in refs or circumstances than differences between teams. However, it is also acknowledged that the latter may be much more difficult to isolate, for instance due to relative sample sizes. Even with that understood, thoigh, is it an assertion we’d want to spread without stronger foundation, or should it be retracted until that’s detailed?

’8) Refs should not be told any “secret rules” that teams are held to but can’t know about: Under discussion. Extensive discussion here regarding what refs do/don’t and should/shouldn’t have secret as well as how to improve consistency and transparency more broadly. thread

*FIRST Vision: " "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and  where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders."   "

*FIRST Mission: “The mission of FIRST® is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire in innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”
FIRST link


What I want to know now is… was there an official policy change about how lenient to be about being on the field after the buzzer?

I want refs/FIRST to be reasonable…if a team is heading towards the field…let them play.

I had this situation seriously negatively impact my students this year and I want to make sure that it doesn’t happen to others.


I appreciate everyone’s input on the carver finals.

Maybe from my point of view the conversation was more heated than from another.

I still am looking for answers to my two questions however:

  1. Shouldn’t it be student responsibility to question a ruling? By all accounts here, both mentors and students were involved.
  2. Why is the definition of a legal climb different for scoring versus penalty?

And lastly, would the outcome of the situation be different had the tables been turned?


Just some clarification since this post by an anonymous person presumes a lot:

  1. I am the Drive Coach for 1678. Our Alliance Captain is a student, who was our base driver.
  2. The Head Referee approached our entire alliance to explain their observations from the match.
  3. The Head Referee was in discussion with the Chief Head Referee (Aiden Brown) and Frank Merrick before making their final decision.
  4. While there were many emotions throughout the ~30 minute process, the entire discussion between our alliance and FIRST volunteers and staff was very clear, courteous and professional. This was not an argument at any point in the discussion.
  5. The interpretation of G12 was made by the Head Referee in consultation with the Chief Head Referee.
  6. The discussion took place between student and adult Drive Team members on our alliance and FIRST volunteers and staff because the FIRST volunteers and staff approached our entire alliance. On all previous and subsequent questions for the Head Referee at Carver, we sent one pre-college Drive Team member to the question box, per section 12.2



I’m not presuming too much, I had a conversation with the head referee after the event was over.

Still looking for response to my questions.

Mike, I think you do a fantastic amount for first and for your team. 1678 has always been one of my favorite teams. I’m not trying to disparage you or your team in any way. I’m trying to understand why the definition of a climb is different for scoring vs penalty and why the referee included discussion with adults involved. Perhaps my understanding of interaction with the referee for questions and clarification is wrong, but I’ve always been told it’s student only.

And within this thread about unequal treatment,
would the other alliance been given the same latitude?


I would hope the other alliance would have received the exact same treatment. The discussion was fair and warranted, given the severity of the call.

I’ve been a huge proponent of overhauling the yellow/red card system. This has furthered my motivation to see real change in this area of our sport.



On Carver in the semifinals, a match was held up while 6443 worked on its robot. On the other side was 330, perhaps the most revered team at this event.

I also know that 148 and 359 were denied replays despite egregious lag problems.


i agree. I hope there would be consistency regardless of team number. Doesn’t matter the level the decision was made at (referee/head referee/chief head referee) - would equal consideration been given. I can only hope so but still have some personal doubt.

Don’t like the red/yellow card system too much either and really disliked the height rule (didn’t see the point behind it). And the touch rocket rule.


I think it’s fair to doubt that the exact same interactions would occur on both sides of the glass, but it’s also entirely speculative.

MeBeMe, what are your thoughts around this situation before SF1-3? Does this show that maybe the Head Referee was favoring 6443?

Personally, I want every alliance to be playing their best and having the best experience possible, and am happy when event volunteers work to help make that happen.



6443 wasn’t working on their robot. The FTA was helping to correct a connection issue. Many times I’ve seen this happen and teams are always given adequate time to resolve it. To be fair, we asked to play our substitution card and put 2811 in for us and were denied. We also asked to play our timeout and were denied.


For the climbing, becuase that’s the way the rule is written:

G12. Duck in the HAB ZONES. A ROBOT with its BUMPERS fully in either HAB ZONE may not extend above the ALLIANCE STATION WALL, i.e. more than 6 ft. 6 in. (~198 cm) above the carpet.
Violation: FOUL. If repeated in a MATCH or while climbing the HAB PLATFORM, YELLOW CARD.

If they extend before they start to climb then it’s just a foul, if they extend during a climb it’s a yellow card.

For including the adults who were included in the discussion, I believe you are refeerencing C9

C9. One student, one Head REFEREE. A team may only send one (1) pre-college student from its DRIVE TEAM to address the Head REFEREE.
Violation: The Head REFEREE will not address additional, non-compliant team members or peripheral conversations.

If the ref(s) walk up to your alliance station then those rules don’t apply, they’re coming to you, not you to them. This would be consistent for any team or alliance: The Refs can go what they want and talk to whoever they want.


I believe that the height rule was purely for safety reasons, but I don’t think it was very well enforced, and the “spirit” of the rule was somewhat lost.


The why is “climbed” is defined in the scoring section. “climbing” for purposes of the yellow card is defined as part of G12. I am not sure if I would make the same call, but as Mike describes it, the right people made the decision.
I like to think that the decisions made at that level would be the same regardless who it affected.



Are you from 6443 or another team on the alliance? This was not clear from your initial posts.

I think it’s only natural to want to see rulings fall in your favor, and can sympathize with that.

6443 was one of my favorite teams on Carver, fwiw. We enjoyed playing with them in quals and watching them climb every. single. match. Fantastic team.



i am the strategy mentor for 6443. We had a great tournament and love playing with everyone. Our alliance partners were fantastic. I was merely asking within the spirit of this thread if the interpretations would have been the same. Any time people are involved, biases do come into play.