Minnesota head baseball coach John Anderson made some comments yesterday that had some Nebraska baseball fans (and others)
shaking their heads freaking out about the future of Big Ten baseball. Anderson stated that he'd like to see the Big Ten break away from the NCAA's regular season and play more baseball games in June.
The freak out part comes due to the realization that such a change could eliminate any Big Ten schools from playing in the NCAA tournament, something tough to take for a group of fans whose teams have played in the College World Series in 2001, 2002, and 2005.
Calm thyself a moment and let me explain why Anderson's idea might not be so far fetched.
Earlier today I posted an article containing an email from Purdue coach Doug Schreiber talking about the Big Ten non-conference scheduling and the difficulties in overcoming the RPI obstacle that typically keeps the conference from getting more than one team in the NCAA tournament.
The RPI formula will change next year, giving road games more weight and could help change things in the Big Ten's favor. But what if it doesn't?
At that point, might it make sense that the Big Ten (and with them the rest of the cold-weather schools) says the hell with it and starts playing their own schedule?
That might lead to the elimination of cold-weather schools from the NCAA tournament, but it also might ultimately lead to an alteration in scheduling that allows regular season games to continue into June, in other words, a huge change in college baseball.
The typical response from fans might be one of futility - "It'll never happen". If that's your response, I'd like to point you back to the past 40 years of college football.
The reasons against change in college baseball are the same as those opposing change in college football, i.e., academics, "that's the way we've always done it", but they mostly boil down to one reason - those in power don't want to alter the current system that favors warm-weather schools.
My favorite part of the article isn't Anderson's comments. It's that bit at the end from BTN spokesperson Elizabeth Conslik, stating:
"BTN will televise baseball whenever the Big Ten plays it."
On the surface, it looks like a pretty innocuous statement. Scratch beyond that surface much and you realize that Conslik knows that with BTN the Big Ten Conference swings a mighty big, ah, hammer.
BTN will be televising 32 baseball games for the 2012 season, along with another 51 being streamed on their online Big Ten Digital Network. By comparison, the SEC will televise 66 games, most of them on CSS, a regional sports channel. The SEC's coverage begins March 6th, BTN's Big Ten coverage starts 17 days later, March 23rd.
For further comparison, the Big 12 will televise a whopping eight baseball games between FSN and ESPN, thankfully including the Big 12 tournament championship game. Granted, more games might show up on regional networks or maybe the Longhorn Network where six people will watch.
The ACC will televise 43 college baseball games on ESPNU, ESPN2, ESPN3 and RSN (Regional Sports Network), with even more being shown on that conference's online digital sports network.
I could not find any information about the Pac-12, although individual schools will have their games televised, and I'm sure that leaves Pac-12 baseball games hoping for more from the Pac-12 network when it gets going.
The point of all this?
There is next to nothing going on in June in collegiate sports, and absolutely nothing in July. As more collegiate-based sports networks spring up looking for content, is it so crazy that as college fans look for more coverage (and the networks more cash) that the college baseball schedule is re-arranged so that games are played in early June, the NCAA tournament later and the College World Series in July?
Add to that the idea that cold-weather schools might invest more in their facilities if they could stop spending money making so many early season road trips and draw more fans to their own stadiums. (Kind of like the college football bowl system, ain't it?)
As college football fans we routinely talk about blowing up college football's rich bowl tradition and history in favor of implementing a playoff, so there's nothing really that wild about a cold-weather school baseball coach talking about playing baseball in June, or worse yet, having his conference break away from established tradition and play their own schedule.
It's not even a new idea. Even Jim Delany has mentioned it before, as far back as 2001.
The Big Ten, once the major opponent to a college football playoff, only recently decided that a four-team playoff might be a good idea. This is the same conference was that only a few years ago was laughed at for starting a collegiate-based sports network that then became the standard everyone else wants to follow.
With the rise of collegiate sports networks, the Big Ten spending more money on facilities and the potential income that follows, maybe the only question is how long it will be before we start attending CWS games in July.