D1 Start Date May Emerge

By Staff

Coaching Management, 12.7, September 2004, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1207/bbstartdate.htm

Thirty-eight years after a Northern school last won the NCAA Division I College World Series, the issue of competitive equity between warm-weather and cold-climate schools may be addressed in legislative action as early as this fall. It would be a stretch to say that there is a consensus, but for many coaches the compromise is simple: Delay the start of the season to mid-February and the College World Series to late June.

The uniform start date and a slightly later College World Series were among the four concepts outlined by the new Baseball Issues Committee in a survey given to Division I athletic directors and head coaches. The survey sought input on these four concepts:

• Establish Feb. 1 as the first permissible date of practice in the championship season.

• Establish March 1 as the first date of competition.

• Delay the start date for the Division I Baseball Championship for two weeks to late June.

• Establish a nonchampionship-season window during the fall.

Bob Todd, Head Coach at The Ohio State University and the only coach on the committee, is among the most outspoken advocates of some kind of change. Of the 40 teams that have played in the last 20 College World Series Championships, only three have been from the Midwest or the Northeast.

Ohio State was the last champion from the Snow Belt, in 1966. Todd cites a survey by the American Baseball Coaches Association several years ago in which 77 percent of the Division I coaches responding favored moving the season back three weeks.

“To move the College World Series back would be advantageous to nearly every school,” Todd says. “Would the advantage remain with the warm-weather schools? Absolutely, but we have to show people around the country that we are trying to equalize the competitiveness of the sport.

“June 21 is the first official day of summer, and the way the season is set up now, by June 21 there are only eight schools in the NCAA still playing baseball.”

Many coaches, usually from Sun Belt schools, say they would like the sport to be successful nationally, but not at their expense. They predict potential attendance drop-offs, increased costs of housing student-athletes after the school year is over, and worries that scheduling changes could injure USA Baseball or summer leagues sponsored by Major League Baseball.

“But if we are going to follow the NCAA creed, which is to give every student-athlete the right to compete for a national championship,” says Todd, “then it’s the NCAA’s obligation to create a competitive, equitable playing field.”

The Issues Committee will forward a report to the NCAA Championships/Competition Cabinet in September. That panel could sponsor legislation for the NCAA Management Council to vote on, possibly for 2006, according to Dennis Farrell, Committee Chair and Commissioner of the Big West Conference.