To set the table recent UCP (Universal Classification Program) posts can be reviewed here and here. And if you are unfamiliar with the Bass-O-Matic ... Okay, enough silliness, this is important--even universally important--stuff, so it's time to be serious. (You are taking this seriously, aren't you?)
Before tossing the UCP into the Bass-O-Matic and flipping the switch I want to state for the record that I am not anti- the UCP. I am even cautiously in favor of the general concept and its potential to help organize and legitimize Paintball as Sport. My principle objection is the timing which I think has driven some of the details in ways that may compromise the sport. That's merely my opinion. The other concerns I have are primarily structural. So consider this a critique and not a takedown. My purpose is not to trash the UCP but to improve it.
Let's begin with some observations gleaned from reading the tentative UCP draft. The value of consistent classifications is systemic standardization, not so Little Jimmy can compare himself to other D4 players around the country. And while comparing ranking points across leagues is probably good for a friendly argument or two it's about as meaningful as Little Jimmy checking out the D4 competition. Universal Classification does however provide a functional framework for structuring a national championship event(s) that will answer all those questions on the field. The core value of the UCP is to provide a comprehensive and uniform structure to the competitive game and, er, incidentally build a grassroots network that will support the PSP. (More on this at some point as it won't actually work as currently conceived.)
After a quick and dirty review of the UCP draft there are a few things that seem either incomplete or simply don't make a lot of sense to me. Which is rather surprising as I typically expect the raehl faction to be scrupulously anal when it comes to details. (I'm pretty sure, btw, that last sentence is the very definition of a left-handed compliment. Oh, and the pairing of scrupulously and anal is, I admit, more than a little disturbing.)
Offered in no particular order I'd like to begin by rehashing an old complaint and by explaining my fundamental concern with this particular effort (the UCP draft) and the broad concept of the UCP, if you get the distinction. To rehash: I oppose the recent PSP movement thru classifications rules and the practice thereof and I oppose any version of that being embedded in the practices of the UCP. I've posted on it repeatedly--to everyone's great dismay, I'm sure--but if you missed them you can get more than enough of my argument by checking out the Logan's Run series of posts in the January '09 archive on the sidebar. Broad concept first: Why? What's in it for the locals and regionals? [Disclaimer--I was asked to offer input on the UCP and coordinate my impressions with the raehl faction. This post is not the result of that effort. I blew it off after 3 emails when it became apparent I wasn't getting paid enough--does zero even count?--and that the raehl faction's primary interest was to simply argue about everything. So please take that into consideration when you judge the validity of this post.]
Back on topic: What incentives exist to encourage widespread participation? It seems a simple enough question. Two examples of what I'm talking about. Imagine two statewide tourney series competing for teams. What's the payoff for one series to go with the UCP or for both to want to? Obviously there is the proffered National Championship--which isn't chopped liver--but remains very unclear. (More coming.) There's the I.D. card cost balanced by the eliminates sandbagging promise. There's the prospect of wholesale classification changes for the competing teams and questions like, do the format changes required impact in a negative way the logistics (and cost) of running one day events? Or what about 3-man? Are all local UCP-sanctioned events restricted to being D4 & D5 3-man events? (See the chart!) It looks swell on a chart but it's just not realistic. And why would a local promoter sign up for this when there is no apparent advantage to him to do so? Oh, wait, he gets a new income stream from I.D. cards! (More on this coming.) Particularly at the local level the idea is to keep it simple and cheap because most teams are looking for a fun day of paintball and nobody embraces change for change's sake. The UCP draft demands change and isn't offering much in exchange--that I can see--to the local, grassroots level.
Arbitrary regional ceiling at D2 Race2-4? APPA has more than enough D1 ranked players in its database to fill a regional division of 8 - 10 teams four or five times over. The problem isn't that this level of play is so skilled, so stratospheric there are only handfuls of such players--the problem is the leagues have yet to figure out to sustain the players that do exist. (And, to be fair, a lot of upper division players of recent vintage have unrealistic expectations given the current climate.)
How will UCP-sanctioned formats function as a one day event? It would probably be helpful if the UCP offered an addendum outlining alternative scheduling options, real numbers on matches played, how to organize past the prelims and so on so potential promoters would have something in hand to offer added confidence it its workability as well as provide answers for prospective teams.
The team count disparity. The promise is a shot at a real national title. How are the qualifying teams calculated? Oh, I know thy earn points--more on this too--but that's not my question. Say a regional league has 20 D2 teams competing over the season and a local or statewide series has 10 D2 teams competing. Do they both send the same number of teams to the Nat'l Championships? If they do then you undermine the regional by making the local more attractive or are we back to no local events can sanction anything but 3-man? At a minimum the UCP needs to define its terms and add concise qualifiers.
Qualifying. As referenced and elaborated on in the comments of the second post linked to above the process of teams qualifying for the Nat'l Championship is murky at best. And the suggestion/inference that total accumulated points somehow play a role in deciding the national champ is a terrible idea. The whole point of having a Nat'l Championship is to determine a winner on the field and you cannot accept all scores as equivalent regardless of the league they were achieved in. (Which brings us back, in part, to sanctioning leagues.) Additionally there is the matter of the bonus points assigned to teams competing in a PSP as opposed to a regional event. (Again, see post referenced above.) Are teams that competed all season in the PSP also competing in the Nat'l Championship or are they competing for something else? If they are all on the same competition track the PSP is undermining its own events by allowing a sanctioned route to the championship that will almost certainly be easier and cheaper.
APPA I.D. cards must be a universally recognized I.D. throughout the UCP otherwise it would rightly be viewed as simply an alternative revenue stream. Right now CFOA players need an APPA CFOA card and then when they play PSP they need a different APPA PSP card. All the info is accessible to either card as the player number doesn't change once established..The only difference is each league gets a kickback on the I.D. cards. Once all these leagues are united under the UCP there is no excuse to charge and re-charge for the same I.D. A reasonable alternative would be a revenue sharing arrangement that includes all UCP leagues.
That's enough for now and should get the raehl faction howling. There's more but honestly this should be enough to keep the UCPers busy for awhile. Or, you know, maybe not since it's so obviously perfect already.