May 18, 2004
The college baseball season will be extended to July and the schedule standardized if a sweeping proposal gets positive reviews from athletic administrators, coaches and players.
The proposal calls for practice at Division I schools to begin on Feb. 1 with games to start March 1. The NCAA champion would be crowned at the College World Series during the July Fourth weekend.
Dennis Poppe, NCAA director of baseball championships, said there have been discussions about schedules during his two-decade association with the sport because warm weather schools have had a significant competitive advantage over northern schools.
"But it's never gotten to this level of consideration with this many people involved," Poppe said.
A 10-person committee, headed by former Central Michigan baseball coach Dave Keilitz, mailed a questionnaire to conference commissioners, athletic directors, coaches and players to gauge support.
"A lot of people have opinions," Poppe said.
The proposal will proceed through the NCAA legislative process. If it is well received, a formal proposal could be made in September.
"Your guess is as good as mine as to what might happen," Poppe said.
The plan would dramatically affect Pac-10 Conference schools and other Sun Belt teams. Pac-10 teams started playing Jan. 29 this year. In contrast, Connecticut played its first game Feb. 27 at ASU.
"Selfishly, it's another blow for perennial big-time programs," said ASU coach Pat Murphy. "We (wouldn't) have our built-in advantages any more."
Poppe noted teams have played as many as 27 games by the proposed start date; ASU played 14 games before March 1 this year.
"We get to play down south enough but obviously it would help the teams in the North," said Oregon State coach Pat Casey. "That would even things out."
"For us," Murphy said, "it will be the reverse of the weather problem. It'll be hot in June. It'll hurt our attendance. It will be difficult to bring teams in."
In the past, college presidents have indicated a preference for seasons to end during the academic year. But with the season already extended to the last weekend in June, that position has been weakened.
The last day of the College World Series is 46 days after commencement at ASU.
Poppe said the proposal shows college baseball's growth as a truly national sport like football and basketball, whose teams start practicing and playing at the same time.
"They want to provide as much opportunity for all the teams to compete on an equitable basis," he said.
From that perspective, Murphy sees the positives.
"They are searching for parity to make college baseball better for (all) the schools," he said. "You can't cry over it. If it's better for college baseball, it needs to be done."