NCAA to establish national start date

by Matt Perkins

College baseball is currently divided, North versus South, on a variety of issues revolving around the “competitive equity” required by NCAA sports.

Problem is, neither of them will be happy until they get exactly what they want, leaving little room for common ground.

Now they will be forced to find that neutral territory, after a proposal made by the NCAA Division I Baseball Issues Committee put in motion legislation to make the last Friday in February the national starting date for games. The measure will be voted on next April and is expected to pass.

But now that proposal has Big Ten baseball questioning the definition of “equity.”

“I think it’s a compromise – no doubt about it,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “I don’t think it affects anyone specifically.”

Although Anderson felt it was neither a step forward nor backward, he said the proposal is somewhat of a sidestep attempt to get around a gap that has become much too big to get around.

“There is just no way we are ever going to get close enough together to get what we need accomplished done,” he said. “I find it somewhat humorous.”

Ohio State coach Bob Todd, who currently serves as the Big Ten’s lone representative on the Baseball Issues Committee, said the proposal isn’t the perfect piece, but it fits the current puzzle facing college baseball as well as can be expected.

“I would say that what is going forward as legislation is about as good a compromise as anybody could have gotten based on all of the influences,” Todd said.

Attached to the national starting date proposal was another one made by the Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet, offering a decrease in season length from 56 games to 52.

This issue of compacting the season has been on the minds of Northern teams for years now, as they have been forced to play four-game weekends – Big Ten series include two seven-inning games on Saturdays – alongside a midweek game.

Iowa coach Jack Dahm said the compaction goes hand in hand with the national starting date. Now that Southern teams face a later beginning to their schedule, he said, they are more willing to reduce the number of games.

“It is some progress and gives us a little bit of hope,” Dahm said. “At least when we begin playing some games down South – because we are still going to have to travel down South to open up our season – those teams will be in their first, second or third games of the season.”

The reactions were similar across the Big Ten, with the consensus being it was an improvement with advances still needing to be made.

Anderson said he still favors the possibility of having two separate seasons and championships, in which teams can choose which season and championship they want to be a part of.

But for now, he said, they will take what they can get.

“It’s exactly what it is – a compromise,” Anderson said. “I don’t think it’s going to satisfy (our) appetite for leveling out the playing field.”