It's the second
week in February, which happens to be the week the Pirates and most
other college baseball programs open their season. As I am writing this
column I can see a hard, cold rain pelting the back of my deck. In
fact, if the temperature drops much lower, the rain we are receiving
will be coming down in the form of snow.
This brings up
some serious questions about why college baseball insists on starting
their season in the middle of the winter. Not only that, but why try
and compete for fans during the middle of basketball season?
I have asked
this question over and over throughout my career, only to get the same
answers: It would cost too much to move the season into the middle of
March, April, May, June and parts of July. Last week I asked this very
same question to coach Mazey, and I agree with his response 100 percent.
As it stands
now, northern schools are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to
competing in college baseball, for two reasons:
One, most of
the northern schools have a hard time getting outside on their
fields until the middle of march, thus putting them on the road for
most of the first part of the season and limiting them in the number
of the games they play. Many northern schools play four games a
weekend and up to as many as six in a week, just to get the NCAA
allotment of 56 games.
southern schools raid the northern regions of the country for the
best talent in those areas. No kid who loves the game wants to
spend the majority of his spring inside practicing and playing most
of his games on the road.
This is why many
northern schools have dropped baseball, because financially they just
cannot afford the cost of what it takes to be competitive. Even in the
southern region of the country it's very difficult to draw fans on cold
days at 3 PM. That's why most often in the south, you won't see
attendance numbers jump until it warms up and teams start playing night
games. Plus, a lot of folks are still caught up in basketball's March
So what's the
hold up you're probably asking? I have my personal take on the issues
that I will share with my readers, and some folks may not like what I
have to say, but that's half the fun.
Whether we want
to admit it or not, college baseball has become predominately a southern
and west coast sport. That can be seen in the number of teams that
qualify for the NCAA Regionals and advance to Omaha. Many coaches and
administrators from these parts of the country do not want to see this
change. It is in some way like the BCS in college football. The more
schools you can eliminate from a competitive perspective, the better
chance you have of competing nationally and advancing to Omaha. I won't
say this has the money ramifications that the BCS holds, but the
principles are the same.
That's only part
of the problem with college baseball and its ability to move the season
back. Other factors that come into play are obviously money and how to
keep student athletes on campus during the extended time period once the
spring semester ends. This is by far the biggest challenge in moving
the season back. The other problems are not nearly as difficult in
finding a solution. Those issues would be the Major League draft that
takes place in June and summer collegiate leagues that are run in June
Now that I have
touched on many of the obstacles that stand in the way of moving the
college season back, let's tackle the solutions.
First, we have
to set a starting date for all teams to abide by, right? Well my
suggestion would be a universal starting date of March 15 for all teams
— north, south, east and west. This would allow more northern schools
to upgrade facilities and put lights on their fields to attract fans.
The regular season would run from March 15 until June 15. From that
point on, conference tournaments would take place leading into the
Regionals, and by July 7th, Omaha would begin for the eight schools
competing for a national championship.
Now the dates
are set. Our next obstacle to tackle is how this can be financially
feasible for all teams. The majority of cost will be on meals during
this time from once the semester ends until the season is over. The
timeframe we are looking at for most teams in the south would usually be
from May 12 to June 15, when the regular season is over. You wouldn't
need to budget money into the conference tournament because that is
already accounted for before the season starts.
As for northern
schools, this time would be even less since they start school later and
exams usually run into the end of May. The reason I calculated only
these days is because once the Regionals start for the 64 tournament
teams, they are on NCAA money. So we are really looking at about 15 to
30 days worth of subsistence expenses for most programs to come up with.
I would estimate
the cost for each program from $9-$18 K, which could easily be generated
through marketing and added season ticket sales. This would be well
worth the cost to bring college baseball into the national spotlight and
allow northern teams to build their programs on a level playing field.
This would only
enhance the game and promote the national TV coverage that college
baseball so desperately needs. This is also one avenue that could help
defray costs for moving the season back. If you look at what takes
place in Omaha drawing over 25,000 fans and the national TV coverage
that it receives, why can we not capture that throughout the season like
all the other sports, meaning football and basketball?
potential roadblock will be working with Major League baseball and the
draft. I already have a solution for this potential problem. My
suggestion would be to hold a high school and junior college draft
around June 1st and a collegiate draft July 1st. I think Major League
baseball would like this resolution, allowing them to focus on one group
at a time.
As for the
collegiate summer leagues, they would need to use more Division II and
III players until the Division I season is over.
I know I have
just made several people furious, but college baseball has to look out
for the best interest of the sport.
Well folks, as
you bundle up to go see the Pirates this weekend, remember it doesn't
have to be this way. If any of you get too cold, just stop by my heated
van and warm up.
cheap. God bless.