FRC Blog - My Bad Call

My Bad Call

Blog Date:
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 09:28
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.


1 Like

Very very professionally handled by Frank, he took responsibility into his own hands and took blame for the mistakes that were made, glad to hear that this worked out for all parties involved.

Gotta love Frank being able to admit when he’s wrong. Glad to see 1323 going to champs!

What am I going to do with all of these torches and pitchforks now?

Considering how everyone has the hair trigger sensitivity of Nitro Glycerin and what’s at stake this week and down in St. Louis you can bet you’ll get good use out of them pretty soon.

Sell them to an angry mob for premium prices.

Frank has a knack for addressing issues in a manner most directors/leaders/officials should emulate. I truly appreciate his openness and transparency. It speaks volumes of his character that he’s willing to admit a mistake and find the most equitable solution given the circumstances.

+1 Frank. Always happy with the way he deals with situations.

Truck Town Thunder, FRC Team 68, commends Frank for this demonstration of Gracious Professionalism. We look forward to earning a spot this year and hope they are in our Division at the FIRST Championships.

Couldn’t have handled it better . A+.

(Puts away pitchfork)

Unsure how I feel about the Wild Card, as I would imagine a waitlisted team who hasn’t been to the CMP since 2012 or earlier is now going to receive an email telling them they will have to wait longer for that opportunity. I’m also not sure how many other teams who believe they were in a similar, if less publicized, boat as 1323 will feel about that decision.

It is unquestionable, however, that 1323 is an outstanding team with a robot that is absolutely Championship worthy, and I know they will make the most out of the opportunity they have been given.

Regardless of the Wild Card, +1 for Frank’s public mea culpa and the changes to the coupon process. Now keep going!

The larger, unresolved issue of this season remains, one that has impacted not only teams, but also many volunteers, and I would hope Frank and HQ are gearing up to address the issue in some meaningful, experience-improving fashion:

This was the right thing to do, I’m glad FIRST and Frank stepped up here. That match shouldn’t have been the last for 1323’s seniors and now it won’t be.

I tried to post this in a comment on the blog, but it set of the SPAM filter for some reason. I was planning on posting it here anyway.

“This mistake was caught, and handled in an efficient amount of time. It is a good when people catch their mistakes, and explain their reasoning. Just an explanation would have been a great start to helping the teams involved, but extending the wildcard was a full remedy, and a great decision. The question I now have is; why hasn’t something similar happened for the Orlando events? A controversial call was made in Orlando, and it could have affected one team their spot to championship. Why are you picking and choosing certain controversial calls to not only address, but also remedy and not others? Those teams deserve an explanation for what transpired, especially since they have given theirs.”

I am happy that 1323 now has a bid for championship, and FIRST definitely went down the right road to fix the situation. But as I said in my comment, why are they picking and choosing what to address? This is HQ’s second questionable call of the season, and since they decided to address this one, why shouldn’t they have to address the first one?

The right call for an unpleasant situation. +1 Frank!

I have a question, what does the form / card look like for timeouts and substitutions?

You get 2 small slips of paper (like, newspaper coupon sized). One says “BACKUP COUPON”, the other says “TIME-OUT COUPON”.

The wording might be slightly different, but I just looked at a pair of them on Saturday.

I’d like to join the chorus of posters in commending Frank for an excellent decision and a gracious admission of mistake. It takes quite the person to own up to something like this, publicly. What a guy.

A difference in these scenarios is that while 1323 was a match or two away from qualifying via wild card, the Orlando alliance had to win the semis and the finals to qualify. There were 4-6 matches in the way of the 233 alliance qualifying, but just two in the way of 1323 qualifying. In the past FRC HQ has been more willing to do this when the mistake alone could have cost them a trip to the Championship, while we have no way of knowing if the 233 alliance would have won in the end.

HQ adjudicating which transgressions get freebies and which don’t is a slippery slope - one which invites public discussions about which teams have been more wronged by game and/or administrative blar beyond their control.

I’d prefer HQ focus their efforts on minimizing the controllable root causes that lead to such transgressions occurring. That is the kind of “freebie” I think all teams would genuinely appreciate!

Thanks to Frank and FRC HQ for doing what they could to “try and make it right” for 1323. I’m not going to lie, I was more upset than I have ever been at an FRC event leaving SVR Saturday afternoon (including after Einstein 2012). While this update doesn’t completely wash out the bad taste in my mouth, it was definitely the right thing to do for 1323.

I’m really excited for 1323 to be coming to champs. Their robot and team is just plain awesome and they will make some noise in whatever division they end up in. Go Madtown!

For Orlando, I feel that acknowledgement of the situation and improving the inspection process to address future misunderstandings are more important than a remedy for the affected teams.

(I see Travis already handled it…)