At a high level, prestige is a reflection of a school's recent success in all areas. It is updated at the end of each season. That update is determined differently in DI compared to DII and DIII.
An important thing to know about prestige is that the visible letter grade actually represents a range of numbers. For example, a B- might cover the number range of 250-400 (these are not the actual numbers). That's important to know because prestige may be improving or decreasing within that range without the visible letter grade changing at all. On the flip side, if the prestige number is right on the edge between two letter grades, a slight change in the number could also change the letter grade.
So, where a school's prestige falls within that range is important. The downside to this is that since you can only see the letter grade, you may not see any evidence of a change, when in fact there could have been a relatively significant change taking place. Rest assured that even if you can't see a change in the letter grade, the number is changing appropriately. And most importantly, the number (not the letter grade) is what we actually use in the game to affect recruiting and other things.
In DII and DIII, prestige is updated at the end of each season based on the following items:
- Current prestige
- Team winning percentage
- Strength of schedule (SOS)
- Postseason bids/wins (National Tournament is worth more than PIT)
In DI, prestige updates work a little differently. We look at the past 4 seasons and put a different weighting on each season. Basically, the further back the season is, the less weight it gets, and subsequently the less impact it has on the current prestige. Each season's success is based on the following items:
- RPI rank
- WIS rank (the system used for the Top 25 rankings)
- Whether the team was conference champion
- Whether the team made the PIT
- PIT wins
- Whether the team made the National Tournament
- National Tournament wins
- Whether the team won the National Championship
All of that success is compiled and weighted and factored in along with the following items to come up with the school's new prestige:
- Current prestige
- The school's traditional power (does not change)
- Success of the school's conference relative to the average in the world
- Success of the school (as described above) relative to the average in the world
Also, if a school has one or more players drafted, that will give an additional boost to prestige - the amount depends on the number of players drafted and where in the draft they were picked. The higher the pick, the bigger the boost. This change won't be seen until the draft is completed, and is not reflected in the prestige that you see in your team history page within your team profile.
A couple of important notes about prestige:
- It's tempting to compare prestige between schools, but that can be difficult and misleading due to all the factors that are involved.
- As noted above, just because the letter grade you see doesn't change, that does not mean your prestige didn't improve. It just wasn't enough to move to the next letter grade.
- There are times where a school's prestige may drop even though they had a good season. That is normally caused by other successful seasons becoming older, and thus weighted less in the past 4 season success calculation. Or it can be caused by a weak conference.
- One or two average to poor seasons in that 4-season window can have a significant effect on prestige, so they can't be overlooked.