Last night, the Stony Brook Seawolves became one of the biggest stories in sports when they upset LSU 7-2 to win game three in Baton Rouge to advance to the College World Series in Omaha. Coming into the 2012 NCAA baseball tournament, the Seawolves had only five NCAA tourney appearances and only one tourney win (in 2010) in their resume.
Stony Brook plays in the America East Conference, a conference whose RPI is ranked 25th in the nation. (You didn't know there were 25 baseball conferences, right? There are actually 32.) They played their first twelve games on the road, finished the season with a RPI of 84, and played in front of single-game LSU crowds that "about matched" their combined home attendance for the season.
Bottom line - Stony Brook has overcome the reasons the Big Ten says it can't compete in baseball. Big Ten coaches have consistently complained about the early season start and being forced to play their early non-conference games on the road. Minnesota's John Anderson has repeatedly stated that northern schools should break away from the NCAA and form their own league, playing later in the summer.
Another complaint is that the conference can't recruit top players.
Don't tell that to the Seawolves. Their roster this season includes seven MLB draft picks (compare that to five at LSU). Of those seven, only RHP Tyler Johnson was from a warm-weather location (Johnson is from California). The rest, OF Travis Jankowski (PA) , Catcher Pat Cantwell (NY), IF Maxx Tissenbaum (Ontario), RHP James Campbell (CT), and RHP Jasvir Rakkar (Ontario) are from cold-weather areas. The Seawolves roster break down shows four players from California, one from Florida, and the rest are from the north - 15 from New York, four from Canada (they play baseball in Canada?), two from Connecticut, and two from Pennsylvania.
You could try to use the excuse that Stony Brook has caught lightning in a bottle, but Kent State, another northern school, has a shot at a CWS bid as well.
Kent State nearly advanced last night but Oregon came from behind to win, 3-2, to force a game three. Like Stony Brook, Kent State got into the NCAA tourney as an automatic qualifier, winning the Mid-American Conference for the third straight year.
If Kent State can win their series tonight against Oregon, northern schools would place two teams in the College World Series.
This could represent a problem to the Big Ten's arguments. From one perspective, the success of Stony Brook and the potential of Kent State make the Big Ten look like nothing more than a bunch of whiners.
From the other, it represents exactly what warm weather schools fear; that any changes to the season format could destroy the advantages they have. Fact is, the college baseball season does start too early, forcing northern teams to spend more money on travel while hurting their home attendance. It wouldn't kill anyone if the schedule were moved to play the CWS in July so northern teams could play more games at home.
This isn't a situation in which you choose one side over the other. Some famous guy once said ""The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
In this case, both perspectives, though seemingly opposed, are right.