College Notebook: ABCA Wrapup
News & notes from the coaches convention in Dallas
DALLAS—The most-discussed topic at the 2010 American Baseball Coaches Association convention was probably the bitterly cold weather in normally mild Dallas. In the annual Division I business meeting, few fresh news items were broached that had not previously been reported by Baseball America. No news is good news given the strong state of college baseball; as NCAA director for baseball and football Damani Leech told the assembled coaches, the 2009 College World Series was the most-viewed and highest-rated ever, and it averaged a record 2.7 million viewers for the CWS Finals between traditional powers Louisiana State and Texas.
Here's a quick rundown of discussion topics at the business meeting:
• We reported last week that Stanford coach Mark Marquess had been contacted by the Pacific-10 Conference about replacing Pat Murphy on the Division I baseball committee. That is now official; Marquess will finish Murphy's term, which expires September 2010. Stanford has confirmed that it will shift its season-ending series against Arizona State up a day to allow Marquess to attend the committee's deliberations in person. The series will run from Thursday through Saturday. Marquess' presence is important because he is now the lone West Coast voice on the committee now that Cal State Fullerton athletic director Brian Quinn's term has expired. Quinn was replaced by Valparaiso athletics director Mark LaBarbera.
• A 14th week was added to the schedule starting in 2010, but that piece of legislation is facing an override vote at this week's NCAA convention in Atlanta. Five-eighths of the delegates would need to vote in favor of the override in order for the 14-week proposal to be defeated, and ABCA executive director Dave Keilitz said that is unlikely.
• At a November 2008 meeting in Indianapolis, Division I coaches voted to support an effort to move the start of the College World Series back a week, rather than adding the 14th week at the start of the season. Keilitz said he has spoken with officials from the city of Omaha and ESPN, and the earliest the CWS could be moved back is 2013 because of scheduling conflicts. Omaha said it could live with a later start date as long as it did not last until the Fourth of July, when the city holds a large celebration. From 2013-15, the CWS would end before the Fourth of July even if it were moved back a week, but it would have to revert back to an earlier start date from 2016-18.
The bigger issue is with ESPN, which said it would have to rewrite its contract with the NCAA if the start date were moved back. The network is concerned about a later CWS conflicting with its commitments to Major League Baseball, golf and tennis. In other words, don't count on a schedule change.
Speaking of ESPN, Leach reminded coaches that this year's soccer World Cup will push back some game times of the 2010 CWS, though he gave no specifics. "The World Cup is an event that a lot of us have really grown to hate," joked Leech.
• The Board of Directors will vote on a proposal this week to reduce the number of games in the college baseball season from 56 to 52, but Keilitz expressed optimism that that proposal would be defeated as well. But this won't be the last challenge to baseball's 56-game schedule.
"Nine of the last 12 years, I have written letters and made phone calls to people in support of the 56 games," Keilitz told the coaches. "Meaning, it's going to be an issue every year."
• Three members of the NCAA's enforcement and investigations staffs spoke with the coaches about their investigations into agents and other issues. Dan Matheson, the NCAA's associate director of enforcement, emphasized that NCAA legislation prohibits all NCAA coaches—including those at Division II and D-III schools—from coaching summer league teams that contain junior college players, which has been an "area of confusion" for many coaches. Several summer league officials later complained about the crackdown, which will cost some young assistant coaches opportunities to get a shot as a head coach in the summer, and will cost some junior college players chances to hone their skills in summer ball.
• There was some debate between coaches over whether or not to pursue a tweak to the recruiting calendar. A majority of coaches voted in a straw poll to make the first 10 days in September a contact period, and make the first 10 days in March a quiet period. But several coaches voiced opposition, arguing that Northern coaches use the early-March contact period to do recruiting work while on Southern road trips, and arguing that downtime in September is very helpful for coaches. Keilitz said he would write up a proposal and then open it up for more discussion.
• Baseball continues to make academic progress. The sport's single-year Academic Progress Rate is up to 963, and its four-year average is up 31 points to 946—a larger jump than any other sport. Still, 25 teams fell below the 925 minimum APR cutline, and 12 will face contemporaneous penalties, while seven others will face historical penalties.
• Teams will be allowed to bring 27 players to all rounds of the 2010 NCAA tournament, an increase from 25. The official travel party will remain at 35, but now two additional players will get the opportunity to experience the postseason in place of school administrators.
• We reported after last year's ABCA convention that the Division I baseball committee was studying the Ratings Percentage Index and how different RPI models affect different programs. That study is ongoing, and assistant director of statistics J.D. Hamilton presented four different RPI models to the coaches: one that adds more emphasis to a school's winning percentage and de-emphasizes its opponents' opponents' winning percentage; one that doubles the bonus for beating a top 25 RPI team and doubles the penalty for losing to a bottom 75 RPI team; and two that weight road victories more heavily than home victories. Hamilton solicited feedback from the coaches, and the committee is expected to address the RPI again next summer.