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The 11th Frame: USBC changes Sport league average adjustment scale but better choice would be dumping it

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 6:00 am

Update: Predictably, this blog prompted a spirited and interesting thread on my Facebook page.

To make a more general point, average adjustment scales and slope rating systems and anything of that sort is pointless because it is impossible to fairly account for all the variables in lane surfaces and lane conditions, not to mention that when you rate a center it can change the condition to game its rating if it wants.

The best answer for the long-term health of the sport of bowling is to scrap handicap and adopt divisions based on averages in increments of say 20 to 25 pins for tournaments where various levels of bowlers compete, similar to flights in golf tournaments. You then put more of the prize money into the upper tier, providing a disincentive for sandbagging and an incentive to practice and get better — just like a real sport.

Would it anger some lower average bowlers and prompt some of them not to compete? Almost certainly. But the answer for the long-term health of the sport isn't to cater to the lowest common denominator — bowling has been doing that for decades and look where it has gotten the sport!

The answer is to craft a system that rewards true sportsmen and sportswomen, whatever their skill levels. That means people who want to practice and get better and play a game/sport for the right reasons.


If you missed the news, the United State Bowling Congress earlier this month announced that it had changed the scale used to adjust Sport Bowling league averages.

“The USBC Equipment Specifications and Certification team determined the changes to the Sport Bowling League Adjustment Table were needed after analyzing data of bowlers in Sport and standard leagues,” USBC said in this news release. “Research continues to show a bowler’s average on the more challenging Sport Bowling conditions typically will be lower than on standard conditions”

The scale only applies to bowlers who only have a Sport average. Those with standard averages use those.

“The Sport Adjustment table was put into place to ensure the competition in leagues and tournaments conducted on standard conditions are equitable,” Neil Stremmel, USBC Managing Director, National Governing Body, said in the release. “We continuously examine data to see if the variance is significant enough to warrant a revision of the table, and our recent analysis showed we needed to make adjustments.”

The scale was last changed for the 2008-09 season. The latest changes were based on data from bowlers who had averages in both sport and standard leagues, USBC said.

The new scale is here.

The old scale is here.

For top-level bowlers, the notable change is that for 224 Sport averages and up there is no adjustment, and the adjustments are smaller just below 224.

I’ve said this before, but I think that USBC is going at the Sport Bowling and average issues all wrong.

If I were the czar of bowling, I would make Sport Bowling the standard and not adjust Sport averages.

That way you “reward” people for competing at what should be the standard, rather than penalizing them for embracing the sport of bowling.

It might give them an advantage when it comes to tournaments on house shots, but so what? Too bad for those who bowl on house shots and have inflated averages. If it bothers them that much, they can switch to Sport leagues.

And it puts an end to the sandbagging that goes on when people bowl on Sport-level conditions in leagues that aren’t Sport certified and therefore escape the average adjustment scale.

The Sport scale is just another example of how bowling has it backward, putting the recreation ahead of the Sport.

In a similar vein, PBA star Mike Fagan penned this interesting blog about handicap. I shared it on my Facebook page earlier this month but for those who missed it there, enjoy!


Here is USBC's explanation of the Sport Bowling Average Adjustment Chart:

Sport Bowling conditions are more challenging than typical league conditions. Therefore, bowler averages under Sport Bowling conditions will typically be lower. We have confirmed this through the analysis of scores from Sport Bowling leagues and tournaments across North America.

In an effort to equalize competition during standard tournaments, the following adjustment scale has been created for bowlers only having a Sport Bowling average.

The adjustment scale is to be used under the following conditions:

— The scale applies to Sport Bowlers who ONLY have a Sport Bowling average.

— If a bowler has an established standard average, that average shall be used for standard tournaments.

— This adjustment scale is not considered a “re-rate” of the bowler.Its purpose is to allow for a fair adjustment to what would be expected of the bowler on a standard league condition.

— The adjustment scale does not supersede the ability of a tournament director to further adjust upward any bowler’s entering average in a tournament per Rule 319.

As additional data is obtained, slight changes to the scale may occur. If so, the updated scale will be published here.

The adjustment scale has been statistically designed to correct 95 percent of the Sport Bowling league averages to within 5 percent of a bowler’s standard average.