Give the Division I Baseball Committee credit for picking 16 worthy regional hosts and maintaining impressive geographic balance. With four hosts out West (Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Stanford), four in the middle of the country (Nebraska, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Rice), seven in the Southeast (Miami, Florida State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Georgia, Louisiana State, Coastal Carolina), and one in the upper Midwest (Michigan), it’s hard to gripe that any one region was given a raw deal. And while you can question why Texas, Arizona and Georgia Tech were passed over as hosts, none is an egregious snub. Committee chairman Larry Templeton did a nice job defending his very defensible host sites on a conference call this evening.
Templeton said the committee strongly considered Texas as a host, but geographic considerations proved the Longhorns’ undoing. Three Big 12 teams (Texas A&M, Nebraska and Oklahoma State) were locks to host on the strength of their body of work, and Rice was a fourth sure-fire host in the same geographic footprint.
"Well, I think the committee looked at (Texas as a host) long and hard, and at the end of the day geographic locations in some other parts of the country probably hurt Texas a little bit," Templeton said. "We certainly felt that we had rewarded the Big 12 Conference with three sites."
Templeton said the decision to award the ACC a fourth host site did not necessarily come down to a debate between North Carolina State (which won the bid) and Georgia Tech, which had a slightly stronger RPI and won the head-to-head meeting against the Wolfpack in the ACC tournament, but finished 3 1/2 games behind NCSU in the regular season standings.
"There was a debate with a number of schools for spots. I don’t know that I would say that it came down to a debate between two ACC teams for that last spot," Templeton said. "Certainly Georgia Tech had an attractive bid, they’ve been a great host for us in the past, but we’re happy with the ACC bids . . . North Carolina State’s overall record, their finish in the conference, and certainly their financial bid and certainly their facility (were determining factors)."
The third regional in the Carolinas (along with Raleigh and Cary, N.C., where North Carolina will host) will take place in Conway, S.C., where Coastal Carolina will bring auxiliary bleachers to Charles Watson Stadium, which holds just 2,000 fans.
Templeton said that geographic balance played a factor in Michigan’s selection as a host, but winning the Big Ten’s regular-season and tournament championships was also a very large factor.
Would-be hosts all needed to submit minimum bids of $50,000, and Templeton said plenty of the bids that were not accepted were considerably larger than some of the bids that were accepted. Since the current 64-team format was adopted in 1999, less and less teams have hosted as No. 2 seeds, and last year for the first time every host was a No. 1 seed. That might not necessarily be the case this year–Michigan, for one, could be a No. 2 seed because of its 36 RPI–but the message is clear: on-field performance matters more than financial considerations.
"I think it’s fair to say that the committee has made it very plain that we’re going to look at sites that have earned it on the playing field, if they put in minimum bids and the facilities are OK for us," Templeton said. "We’ve been pretty consistent in recent years that you earn it on the playing field."
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