ANAHEIM—The Division I business meeting is an annual highlight of the American Baseball Coaches Association convention. Every year, the game's top power brokers—ABCA executive director Dave Keilitz, NCAA vice president for baseball and football Dennis Poppe, and the chairman of the Division I Baseball Committee—inform the assembled coaches about the biggest issues facing college baseball.
With the game in strong shape, there was little fresh news to come out of 2012 business meeting at this weekend's convention in Anaheim.
"At this point, everything is just kind of status quo," Keilitz told the coaches.
Keilitz's biggest concerns seemed to center around a pair of proposals that 50 university presidents discussed at a retreat last summer: a proposal to reduce schedules in all sports by 10 percent, and another to allow schools to give $2,000 stipends to athletes on full scholarships. Poppe said that "saner minds prevailed" and a commission will study the proposal to reduce games, and that the commission is expected to recommend there will be no reduction in games for 10 years.
In survey after survey, baseball coaches have expressed a strong preference to retain their 56-game schedule, but Keilitz said he has had to defeat some proposal to reduce baseball's schedule in 14 of the 18 years he's been at his current position. Keilitz said there is another separate proposal "floating around in space" right now to reduce baseball's schedule to 52 games, but it doesn't appear to be a serious threat.
The stipend proposal was suspended after "a significant amount of institutions" submitted an override request, as Poppe put it. The NCAA's Board of Directors will consider that proposal at its meeting this Saturday, and Poppe speculated that he thinks the Board is likely to tweak the proposal but not scrap it.
Keilitz said he was concerned that if the stipends are approved, schools could feel pressure to give football and basketball players stipends in order to keep up with their competitors on the recruiting trail, and baseball might have to absorb some cuts in order to pay for the stipends in those other sports.
"If you add another additional, say, $400,000 into the program (for stipends for full-scholarship athletes), that's got to come from some place," Keilitz said. "I don't see it coming from football (cuts); I don't see it coming from basketball. It's not going to come from women's athletics because of Title IX. It's going to come from male sports other than football and basketball, so that was a great concern that I had."
Certainly, the stipend issue is worth monitoring, but it is far from a pressing problem for college baseball at this juncture.
Some other nuggets from the D-I business meeting:
• A year ago, Poppe acknowledged that the NCAA needs to re-examine its agent/adviser rules for baseball. He and two members of the enforcement staff reiterated that message in Anaheim, but they also said no action is currently being taken on the issue—just a lot of discussion.
• Schools that fall below a 930 cut-line in the Academic Progress Rate will be subject to postseason bans starting in 2015-16, a change from the current 900 cut-line. This doesn't figure to have a significant impact on college baseball, which has done a good job improving its APR. Keilitz said that just 10 of the 293 D-I programs fell below the 900 cut-line last year, and none of the 10 was in the top 200 of the Ratings Percentage Index. He said 30 programs fell below 930, and just three of them played in the NCAA tournament—and all three had APR scores above 920, "so all certainly within range," as Keilitz put it.
"With the time we've got to make up the difference (before the change is enacted in 2015-16), all of our programs should be in good shape," Keilitz said.
• Coaches voted to support a proposal to slightly alter the recruiting calendar by making the last two weeks of August a quiet period, in order to take some strain off recruiters. Keilitz said he will push that proposal forward.
• Michigan coach Rich Maloney, who has served as the Division I chair on the ABCA's executive committee for the last three years, will serve a second three-year term, as no one stepped forward to run against him.
• Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander, the new chairman of the Division I Baseball Committee, was not at the meeting, so Dennis Farrell of the Big West spoke on behalf of the committee. He reviewed some changes the committee passed last summer: a tweak to the RPI formula that will give more weight to road victories starting in 2013; the addition of instant replay at the 2012 College World Series to determine if a home run is fair or foul, and for determining if a batted ball is a home run or a ground-rule double; the decision not to display a visible pitch clock in the postseason because there were very few violations of the 20-second clock last year. He also said CWS teams can expect an increase in the size of their travel parties from 35 to 40 in 2013.
• Poppe said CWS ratings were up 5 percent on ESPN and 26 percent on ESPN2 from a year ago. The CWS Finals ratings were up 32 percent from 2011, he said.
• Most years, Keilitz discusses long-term goals like increasing baseball's scholarship limit from 11.7, but that particular pipe dream is no closer to becoming a reality than it has been in the last decade, and it did not come up at this year's meeting.
Finally, another piece of news to come out of the weekend: Alabama A&M coach Ed McCann announced that he will resign due to health reasons. His top assistant, Michael Tompkins, will serve as head coach in 2012. McCann, who spent 12 years at Centenary before heading to Alabama A&M last year, is one of college baseball's most colorful characters and will be missed. The 56-year-old McCann told the Huntsville (Ala.) Times
that his brother-in-law gave him an opportunity to work in the oil business in San Antonio, and he decided to take it.