SInce 2009, cold-weather teams have descended upon the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area to open their season at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. This year, 20 teams from the two conferences will play a total of 30 games over the three days of opening weekend, at four different fields located at current and former MLB spring training facilities.
It seems logical that teams from those two cold-weather conferences would want to open their season against other cold-weather teams in a warm location, rather than have to face a Southern opponent that has already been practicing outside for weeks. But the Challenge will have a different look in 2013, according to Angel Natal of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, which hosts the event.
"Apparently the Big Ten coaches voted against having to attend the event through the conference," Natal said in an e-mail.
But the event is not being discontinued altogether. Natal said six total teams have committed for a three-versus-three event next year. He said the Sports Commission hopes to continue with a four-on-four format in future years, and they hope to keep the title of the event the same, though it will no longer be a bonanza for Northern scouts, who love seeing players from 20 teams in one stop.
The Sports Commission hosted a junior-college tournament this past weekend, and going forward it intends to kick off the season with the JC tourney, followed by a Division II tournament the next weekend, and the scaled-down Big Ten/Big East event the weekend after that.
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