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Committee proposes NCAA tournament changes

By Will Kimmey
August 10, 2005

The NCAA Division I baseball committee proposed legislation at its summer meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., that would change the look of regional play in the NCAA tournament.

The legislation would allow the committee to seed the top 16 teams in the 64-team field, doubling the current number of national seeds; to increase the minimum bid to serve as a regional host from $35,000 to $50,000; and to place teams from the same conference in the same regional if more than 50 percent of the teams from that conference earn tournament bids.

The NCAA championships/competition cabinet will vote on all three items separately on Sept. 21, and changes would take effect for the 2006 season.

The baseball committee continued to discuss the possibility of playing super-regional series at neutral sites, a move that could begin as early as 2008. "We're still doing more study on neutral sites," said Dennis Poppe, the NCAA's managing director for baseball.

The committee also chose Mississippi State athletics director Larry Templeton as chair, replacing the Florida State's Charlie Carr, whose four-year term on the committee ended. Brian Quinn and Tim Weiser, the athletic directors at Cal State Fullerton and Kansas State, were chosen in February to replace outgoing members Carr (Florida State) and Bill Rowe (Southwest Missouri State) on the committee; Templeton joined a year ago to replace Louisiana State's Skip Bertman.

The committee's active role only includes the administration of the NCAA tournament, but members also took time to discuss issues involving the sport during their meeting at the end of July.

The main talking points included defeating an amendment to the change-of-season plan that would eliminate four regular season games. The Division I championships/competition cabinet supported making the last Friday in February the mandatory start date for college baseball, but added an amendment to reduce the current 56-game schedule to 52 games. That total works out to four games per week in the 13-week season that this change-of-season plan would establish.

The baseball issues committee, which proposed the change-of-season plan (that also establishes a Feb. 1 start date for practice and allows a 45-day window for the completion of fall practice), debated trimming the number of regular-season games during its meetings but ultimately decided against the idea.

Poppe said he would ask that the change-of-season plan and games reduction idea be split into separate pieces of legislation rather than the current bootstrapped proposal. "There's no compelling evidence that the 56-game schedule has any impact on (academics), and we'd like to study it to see it if does," Poppe said.

Dave Keilitz, American Baseball Coaches Association executive director, said he planned to write letters to coaches across the nation urging them to express their desire to preserve the 56-game schedule to their school administrators and league commissioners, who have a chance to offer their opinions as the legislation moves to the NCAA management council in October.

"We don't have any power over that. It's frustrating," said Mike Gaski, baseball committee member and UNC Greensboro coach. "It's frustrating. At Larry's suggestion, we voted to notify the championship cabinet that we unanimously oppose that. That's all we can do."

Final approval from the NCAA's board of directors couldn't come before April 2006, so the 2007 season would be the first in which this change could take affect, though 2008 looks more likely.

Progress On APR

Meanwhile, the NCAA board of directors adjusted the Academic Progress Report so that it will not penalize programs when players leave school early for the professional draft, provided the student-athlete exits in good academic standing. That change could help baseball programs such as Cal State Fullerton, which had 11 underclassmen drafted in 2005, avoid retention penalties under the APR. Poppe and Keilitz served as part of an APR study group that recommended this adjustment to the Committee on Academic Performance after finding that 320 of the 523 Division I underclassmen drafted in 2004 lost retention points. The group also called for the same treatment for a limited number of transfers, possibly three per year. The board decided to investigate that change more before acting on it.

"With transfers, there is more to assess, and they have some questions about it," Poppe said. "There are legitimate concerns (when coaches do not renew players’ scholarships)."

The baseball committee looked at some preliminary models for increasing scholarships in baseball. One proposes raising the limit of 11.7 scholarships to about 14, still to be divvied between several players. The other is more radical, proposing 27 individual scholarships that cover tuition and fees only--leaving the responsibility of paying for housing, food and books on the students. That number was selected because an average of 26.8 players on Division I teams received some sort of scholarship aid in 2005.

The second model with tuition scholarships would tighten the gap between public and private schools.

"A lot of coaches I've talked to are very interested in the tuition concept," Keilitz said. "The one nice thing about it is now cost for all kids is going to be pretty much the same because room and board is pretty much the same between all universities--public and private. (Recruiters) would be selling the school, academics and program tradition--not the cost anymore."

Keilitz will further project these models and present them to the committee at its November meeting in an attempt to get the scholarship package on the legislative cycle in the future.

AROUND THE NATION

• Poppe has asked the NCAA for funds to bring six additional people--two ABCA members, two conference commissioners and two members of the Division I rules committee--to the summer meeting a day in advance to enhance further discussion of baseball issues. The baseball issues committee, set up especially to discuss the change-of-season plan, was not a regularly meeting body.

• Keilitz and the ABCA have started the groundwork for the NCAA to bring graduate assistant coaches back to baseball. The position was eliminated in 1991 to reduce the size in coaching staffs. Programs currently have one head coach, two paid assistants and one volunteer assistant. "Baseball has the largest number of athletes per coach in the NCAA," Keilitz said.

 
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