NCAA Approves Uniform Start Date For 2008

By Will Kimmey
January 11, 2006

The NCAA Board of Directors approved a Big 10 Conference proposal that will establish a uniform start date for college baseball, beginning with the 2008 season.

The legislation passed with 81 percent of the vote from the NCAA management council Sunday and 91 percent of the vote from Board of Directors on Monday. It takes effect Aug. 1, 2007, and stipulates a formula to determine the first date regular-season games can be played each year. That date is the Friday that falls 13 weeks before the selection of the 64-team NCAA tournament field, which takes place each year on Memorial Day. That gives the 2008 season a Feb. 22 start, with Feb. 20 and 26 starts for 2009 and 2010.

This regular-season starting date is a change from the initial proposed date of the last Friday of February, a compromise submitted by the Pac-10 Conference.

“This seems to be a good compromise. It gives you an extra week to play without moving the season back into July,” said Dave Keilitz, American Baseball Coaches Association executive director. “I think a large majority of the coaches are in favor of some sort of start date for the games, depending on what area of the country they are in. Some want a start date a little bit later or a little bit earlier, but most want a uniform date.”

Preseason No. 1 Texas started practice Jan. 9 and begins defending its 2005 national title Feb. 3 at San Diego. Four West Coast teams open their regular season schedules a week earlier, on Jan. 27. Games and practices this early will only continue through 2007, after which schools will be forced to reconfigure their schedules.

The legislation also lists Feb. 1 as the first day a team may hold spring practice and extends teams a 45-day window to complete their fall practices.

Few coaches expected the proposal to be approved in January, as most anticipated the typical 60-day comment period that follows when the management council approves a new proposal. That allows for additional research on the issue and gives the membership time to discuss and respond to a proposal before the Board of Directors casts its final vote in April. A proposal that passes the management council with overwhelming support does not require a comment period if the board of directors also wants to accept and approve it the next day. That’s the course the change-of-season plan followed.

A similar majority of the management council (80 percent) voted down a proposal to trim the college season from 56 to 52 games. However, the board of directors requested more time and will vote on the issue in April.

“We will do everything we can to convince the board, like we did the management council, to keep the 56 games,” said Keilitz, who wrote personal letters to 25 of the 45 members of the management council. “I felt that if (the schedule) came out of management council at 56 games, it had a chance. It if came out with 52, probably not. We’ll have to work until April that the board votes to keep the 56 games.”

In April, the board also will consider a proposal on offseason skill development. Players currently are allowed two hours of skill development per week in 4-on-1 settings with coaches. The proposal would allow entire teams to work together during that two-hour period. The management council approved this change in two forms, one of which does not allow for practices the week of and the week before exams.