The ironic part about your post is that it is in a thread started about COTS parts. COTS parts have done almost nothing for the top 10% of teams compared to what it has done for the middle 80%.
I remember the “good old days” when hardly anyone moved at a week one regional. It was painful. That is why Woodie Flowers, along with IFI, started a committee to fix the problem in 2004. I was fortunate enough to be asked to be on that committee. The #1 priority: NO Circle bots. If you don’t know, it was a robot that only drove in circles. Without rehashing all the details, here are the highlights:
Got rid of the drill motors as primary drive motors. Replaced with 4 CIMS.
IFI lead designer of the Kit Chassis, making all the parts in their facility in Greenville, TX.
I was the lead designer of the gearbox, while I was still at FANUC Robotics.
I suggested bringing in the newly formed AndyMark to manufacture some of the hex shafts and gears as IFI was not experienced at that yet and the FANUC suppliers were way too expensive.
The majority of the operational stuff was handled between IFI, AM, and FIRST but I burned a favor with the FANUC operations manual department to make the instruction and assembly guide for the gearbox.
This single committee has changed the face of the FRC competition field more than any single entity, in my opinion.
The COTS movement, started by AM, has made it so the elite level teams (the 10% you say the majority concentrate on) had to up their game to stay on top of the pack. The biggest benefactors have been the middle 80% of teams. The teams that had the will, but not the way. The COTs movement gave them the way.