March 21, 2009

"The Ranker" is now a blogger

Brian Koppen of lawschooladvocacy.com fame now has a blog to accompany his rankings site. It appears Koppen will use the blog to dispense various morsels of wisdom and self-promote his own asinine system.

His first few posts seem to be aimed at me or things I've discussed here, asking readers to give their opinion of this blog and topics about which I've written. I found particularly amusing the post in which he directly calls me out, asking how my own program's new "relatively good ranking" will affect my criticisms of his methodology. Umm, no need to think about that answer: NOT ONE BIT. As I said way back in September, I'd have the same problems with Koppen's system whether my program is 1st, 6th, or 60th. Frankly, I could really care less where Texas Tech (or anyone else, for that matter) sits. My bigger concern is trying to convince others not to care either, but admittedly, I'm losing that fight.

Anyway, my fave post has to be this one, where he offers some observations about his just-"locked" (i.e., "finalized") 2008 rankings. Specifically, he marvels at how South Texas College of Law and UC Hastings College of the Law managed to secure first and second place in both years' rankings. I don't think those finishes would surprise anyone who knows even the slightest bit about law school moot court. But it somehow managed to surprise Koppen, who claims that when he started the rankings two years ago, he had "never heard of" South Texas or Hastings.

What if I started a site/blog about college basketball, purporting to be the definitive answer on program strength, and in a post I say, "UCLA? Never heard of 'em. Duke? Who are they?"

Seriously, folks. South Texas is to law school advocacy what Notre Dame is to college football. And yet the dude had never heard of South Texas before he started his site, and was surprised to learn that they topped his rankings in both years of the site's existence. To start a site that purports to be the final say on which programs are good or bad, and yet have never even heard of the most successful moot court program of all time (by a long shot), is embarrassing. Good grief, people.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Response is up! --Ranker

Mocker said...

His website has gone from a semi-legitimate ranking website with some potential to a ridiculous waste of time. Seriously, how can you claim to run an unbiased site dedicated to ranking advocacy and then post personal opinions on everything.

You are the only one giving him legitimacy by posting about him. Just do what the rest of us do and ignore him.

Anonymous said...

There's not a single personal opinion on that thing. To the extent a moot court program is labeled "bad," it's supported by the numbers. (Was that your program by any chance?) The rest are observations of programs' rankings over time -- 2007, 2008 and 2009 (as it evolves). --Ranker

Anonymous said...

I am glad that his trial advocacy "rankings" were removed even though according to his calculations my school was ranked #1 in 2008. There has to be some quality control for the rankings to be an accurate reflection of a school's program. Competition levels vary from competition to competition. To treat them all the same is silly.

For him the only quality is quantity. We will never be a school that can send teams to 8-10 trial competitions or 8-14 moot court competitions a year. That does not mean we do not do a good job training up students or providing opportunities. This academic year I will have 32 different students competing in some type of competition. A ranking system would be nice, but his is fatally flawed.

-Joe Lester, Faulkner

Anonymous said...

"Was that your program by any chance?" -- Ranker. That kind of substance-bereft ad hominem is making this discussion increasingly grating.

I think people who care about stats and competition recognize some inherent flaws in the Ranker's methodology. The NCAA tournament is not more "valuable" a competition than the NIT because it has double the number of participants - it's because of the selection mechanism. A large competition where schools send their C-teams would be overvalued, and the Ranker asserts that because of the ranking system, schools should change their priorities. Frankly, that approach is numbers defining reality rather than reflecting it.

The Ranker fails to grasp that numbers do not support conclusions when they are inherently tied to a methodology. Similarly, in a competition if one set of judges in one room can give Team A a score of 75, and another set of judges in another room gives Team B a score of 80, it does not follow that Team B > Team A simply because the number is larger. In effect, the Ranker's site is entirely personal opinion - to the same extent that UHouston's ranking system is.

It's not that anyone is "losing" the argument about what's a good, bad, or ugly ranking system. The Ranker's system has the advantage of exposure and Google ranking. A proper system would have a lot of extra information that teams and competitions wouldn't necessarily report. For example, I would say that raw number of wins is far less important than average position - a school consistently placing quarter- and semi- teams is better than one that gets a couple of wins but can't get most of their teams out of prelims. I also think that competitions could be gauged on prestige and cut-systems; any competition cutting half-or-more of the field without the benefit of some limiting system like a round-robin pool is immediately suspect to me.

There is a lot of work to be done in search of a real ranking system, but some healthy debate at this point isn't necessarily bad.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with all that. --The Ranker

Anonymous said...

It's the age-old debate: either allow historical prestige to reign supreme forever (a la Harvard in U.S. News), or give the keys of prestige to the comps that can handle it. Pace can handle it. Why allow it to remain with NMC and its uneven regionals?

Anonymous said...

Are you saying that the Pace Environmental Law Competition is more prestigious or harder to win than the National Moot Court Competition? Seriously?

1) Teams in the National MCC typically must do exceedingly well in regional preliminary rounds, then usually win two sudden death elimination contests to get out of regionals. They then, in the national tourney, must get out of tough elimination rounds against other regional winners and win four consecutive sudden death rounds against the best teams in the country.

In Pace, teams need to finish in the top third of the prelim field, then win three times. At no point are they likely to encounter a team composed of a school's best advocates.

2) Please name for me one school that sends its best advocates to the Pace Environmental Law Competition. List all the ones that do. Then list the schools that strive to send the best of their best to tournaments like the NMC and ABA NAAC.

Compare the size of the lists.

"Historical prestige" has nothing to do with relative quality of the fields at or relative difficulty of the Pace and NMC competitions. Indeed, both the NMC and NAAC have grown in both size and competitiveness in recent years. Pace is a great specialized competition, but to say it's somehow harder to win or more prestigious than the top national tournaments is something that even the people who run Pace would have a good laugh about.

You don't seem to see how failing to realize things like that harms your credibility.

Anonymous said...

Of course, someone like you will claim I don't have credibility by announcing -- for an audience who may not have carefully read everything I've ever written -- that I don't think NMC is currently more competitive than Pace. I would say that, at present, they're both of comparable difficulty. NMC may be slightly more difficult in certain regions, and definitely at the national round. This of course makes Pace the hospitable place for points. Do I think that the few clinging onto the historical prestige of the NMC affair will ultimately abandon their quest to win NMC every year? Yes. As their ranking slips from Top Five to Top Ten to Top Whatever, I'm guessing they'll change it up somewhat. All moot court directors will come around (some quicker than others), and Pace will be more competitive than NMC. --Ranker

Daniel said...

Dear Ranker,

Do you honestly believe that based on your rankings that schools will choose to send better teams to competitions with more competitors? You are seriously delusional.

No legitimate advocacy director will ever pay attention to your website.

Why do you even need to rank moot court programs when University of Houston already does? Oh wait, that is why you trash that tournament and their legitimate ranking, because it makes you irrelevant.

And thank you for not ranking mock trial anymore. It was more of a joke than your moot court rankings. (No points for winning the Tournament of Champions but a hundred for winning Buffalo - Ha ha).

Anonymous said...

That bit of high-level discourse, anonymously signed, will end this discussion. --Ranker

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to muster up sympathy for someone who writes: "The Vanilla Ice post highlights everything wrong with touting a moot court ranking being doled out by the University of Houston. After all, it's the University of Houston. They're bad at moot court."

Live by the ad hominem, die by the ad hominem. Personally, while I disagree with aspects of the UHouston system, someone's supposition that the school - in entirety - is "bad" at moot court doesn't remotely enter into that analysis. To even say that kind of thing is self-demeaning.

Neither system is perfect, both are based on incomplete information, but the barrier for the LSA system is that few people with experience in moot court will blindly accept that a competition is more "valuable" than another solely in proportion to their respective number of participants.

And to think that the numbers "conclude" or "justify" anything is a confirmation-biased farce. There are dozens of "possible" metrics that could be designed that would give all different kinds of answers. Maybe we need something like the BCS computer aggregate system - then everyone can have their place and the off-putting acerbic cracks can mercifully fizzle out.

Anonymous said...

ad hominem

Anonymous said...

ad hominem
–adjective
1. appealing to one's prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one's intellect or reason.
2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument.

acerbic
–adjective
1. sour or astringent in taste: Lemon juice is acerbic.
2. harsh or severe, as of temper or expression: acerbic criticism.

Mark Zoole said...

I once cared about these national rankings. But after a frustrating bit of dialogue with Brian a year or so ago about some fairly obvious flaws in his system, I began to realize that there is little point to them.
The ABA is enough. The Rangers are not better than the Red Sox because the Rangers' minor league teams might win their AA titles while the Rangers' minor league teams might not. What matters is what happens in those competitions where you send out your best to face the best that others send out. I try to send my best competitors to the ABA competition, and so do most other coaches/directors I have communicated with. New York's is too early in the year to gauge 2Ls so as to even put a team together in time, and the Houston one seems redundant of ABA, not to mention a major pain to prepare for over winter break if you are at a school where most of your kids leave town for winter break. For what my opinion is worth, forget national rankings and focus on who wins the big prize. And that prize is the ABA competition; it is the most competetive (and best administered) one I have seen. Mark Zoole, Washington University St. Louis School of Law National Moot Court Team Coach

Anonymous said...

But you lost that one -- the ABA comp. And yet, your program is really good. Thank goodness my ranking says so. So people know. I mean the Texas Tech guy knew, but the rest of us didn't. --Ranker