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Is Competitive Inertia Needed To Win A World Championship?

Is Competitive Inertia Needed To Win A World Championship?
On November 27, 2007, a very detailed and cohesive theory was posted on Drum Corps Planet entitled Competitive Inertia. The DCP user named Bruckner8 went on to lay out a intriguing theory that can be summarized into the following:

"A corps must first finish in the Top 3 before being considered 'qualified enough' to win, and it's much more likely if that top 3 finish was in the PRIOR YEAR."

The posted has since been updated on a regular basis after each DCI World Championship with a simple post summarizing that the theory has survived another year. Most recently on August 14, 2016, the original poster said, "Safe for another year!"

So I decided to put the theory to the test and see how accurate it is up through 2016 and how it might apply to the current 2017 season.

Let's begin with the basics. Drum Corps International crowned its first world champion, the Anahiem Kingsmen, in 1972, and since then a total of nine corps have won the world championship. Excluding the Kingsmen because there was not a precedent prior to compare them against, the eight other corps to win a world championship have ALL medaled prior to their first title. And, all of those first-time winners medaled the year prior except for the 1996 Phantom Regiment. 

Regiment won their first world championship in DCI's first-ever tie with the Blue Devils in 1996. But prior, Phantom had long established itself as a powerhouse, finishing second four times (1977, '78, '79, '89) and third three times (1991, '93, '94). 

First Title Corps Rank Year Before
2016 Bluecoats 3
2013 Carolina Crown 2
1996 Phantom Regiment 5
1992 The Cavaliers 2
1991 Star of Indiana 3
1983 Garfield Cadets 3
1976 Blue Devils 3
1975 Madison Scouts 2
1973 Santa Clara Vanguard 3

Making large leaps to win a title simply do not happen. The largest single jump from the previous year to a world championship happened from 1980 to 1981. In the summer of 1980, the Santa Clara Vanguard finished in seventh place, which was uncharacteristic for a corps who had already won three world championships and never fallen below third place. However, SCV recovered nicely and in the summer of 1981 reclaimed their spot on top of DCI for their fourth world championship. 

The next largest jump was accomplished by the Madison Scouts from 1987 to their last world championship in 1988. The Scouts went from a sixth-place finish in 1987 to first in 1988. This leap supports the Competitive Inertia theory, however, based on the corps' long-standing history. The Scouts had already won a world championship in 1975 and were routinely in the top five in the early part of the '80s. 

The corps that does have a history of rather large improvements to win titles are The Cadets. Having won their first DCI world championship in 1983, as a part of DCI's only three-peat, The Cadets have a flare for the dramatic. On five different occasions The Cadets have moved from either fourth- or fifth-place finishes the year prior to first the following season. Most recently, they went from a fifth-place finish to capturing their 10th world championship in 2011.


Final Rank Corps Year Won Championship
5 The Cadets 2010 2011
4 Phantom Regiment 2007 2008
4 The Cadets 2004 2005
4 The Cadets* 1999 2000
5 Phantom Regiment* 1995 1996
4 The Cavaliers 1994 1995
4 Blue Devils 1993 1994
5 Cadets of Bergen County 1989 1990
6 Madison Scouts 1987 1988
4 Cadets of Bergen County 1986 1987
7 Santa Clara Vanguard 1980 1981

Considering the evidence supporting the Competitive Inertia theory, one would think that finishing in first the year prior automatically sets corps up for the best chance to win the next year. Well, that's not entirely true. Of the 47 championships awarded since 1972, there have been 10 corps to repeat as champions, including only one three-peat. However, there have been 14 instances in which corps have finished second and have gone on to win a world title the following year. And there have been 12 times in which corps have finished third and followed by winning a championship.

Who To Watch For:

So if we use Bruckner8's Competitive Inertia theory, let's identify the corps that have the best look at winning the 2017 DCI World Championship. Going down the most recent FloMarching Rankings of World Class, let's apply the Competitive Inertia theory to see who's in and who will need to break history. 

#1 - Carolina Crown
World Title(s) - 1; most recent in 2013
2016 Finish - 3rd
Competitive Inertia Chances: Very High

#2 - Bluecoats
World Title(s) - 1; most recent in 2016
2016 Finish - 1st
Competitive Inertia Chances: Very High

#3 - Blue Devils
World Title(s) - 17; most recent in 2015
2016 Finish - 2nd
Competitive Inertia Chances: Very High

#4 - Santa Clara Vanguard
World Title(s) - 6; most recent in 1999
2016 Finish - 4th
Competitive Inertia Chances: High

#5 - The Cavaliers
World Title(s) - 7; most recent in 2006
2016 Finish - 5th
Competitive Inertia Chances: High

#6 - The Cadets
World Title(s) - 10; most recent in 2011
2016 Finish - 6th
Competitive Inertia Chances: Medium

#7 - Boston Crusaders
World Title(s) - 0
2016 Finish - 12th
Competitive Inertia Chances: Low

#8 - Phantom Regiment
World Title(s) - 2; most recent in 2008
2016 Finish - 8th
Competitive Inertia Chances: Low

Is Competitive Inertia Correct?

It certainly seems so. The trends of corps winning and staying at the top are certainly backed up by the last 40-plus years of competitions and data. And as Bruckner8 points out, there is a long-standing precedence of corps reaching the top of DCI and eventually winning. There are only four corps to have medaled in the history of DCI to NEVER win a world championship. The 27th Lancers (1980), Bridgemen (1980), Troopers (1973), and Blue Stars (1972, 1973). 

So we shall see how Competitve Inertia holds up to DCI's 2017 cast of ensembles. And on August 12, will Bruckner8 be able to post "Safe for another year!" or will someone break the trend and rewrite the theory?



Year World Champion Placement Year Before
2017 ???  ???
2016 Bluecoats 3
2015 Blue Devils 1
2014 Blue Devils 2
2013 Carolina Crown 2
2012 Blue Devils 2
2011 The Cadets 5
2010 Blue Devils 1
2009 Blue Devils 2
2008 Phantom Regiment 4
2007 Blue Devils 3
2006 The Cavaliers 2
2005 The Cadets 4
2004 The Cavaliers 2
2003 Blue Devils 2
2002 The Cavaliers 1
2001 The Cavaliers 1
2000 The Cavaliers 3
2000 The Cadets 4
1999 Santa Clara Vanguard 2
1999 Blue Devils 3
1998 Cadets Of Bergen County 2
1997 Blue Devils 1
1996 Blue Devils 3
1996 Phantom Regiment 5
1995 The Cavaliers 4
1994 Blue Devils 4
1993 Cadets Of Bergen County 2
1992 The Cavaliers 2
1991 Star Of Indiana 3
1990 Cadets Of Bergen County 5
1989 Santa Clara Vanguard 2
1988 Madison Scouts 6
1987 Garfield Cadets 4
1986 Blue Devils 3
1985 Garfield Cadets 1
1984 Garfield Cadets 1
1983 Garfield Cadets 3
1982 Blue Devils 2
1981 Santa Clara Vanguard 7
1980 Blue Devils 1
1979 Blue Devils 3
1978 Santa Clara Vanguard 3
1977 Blue Devils 1
1976 Blue Devils 3
1975 Madison Scouts 2
1974 Santa Clara Vanguard 1
1973 Santa Clara Vanguard 3
1972 Anaheim Kingsmen -

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