2021 Summit League Preview

Image credit: Nebraska-Omaha SS Keil Krumwiede (Photo courtesy of Nebraska-Omaha)

The sands underneath the Summit League have shifted of late, both on the field and off. On the field, for the first time in a long time, Oral Roberts’ supremacy in the conference has been challenged. Not only did Nebraska-Omaha win the outright regular-season title and the automatic bid in 2019, but it looked the part of a contender again in 2020 and seems to be building something that’s made to compete for the long haul. 

Off the field, the conference is dealing with some changes in membership. Purdue-Fort Wayne is now a member of the Horizon League. That’s not a huge problem in most sports the league plays, but it was an issue for baseball. With league members like Denver, Missouri-Kansas City, North Dakota and South Dakota not sponsoring baseball, it took the Summit down to five members on the diamond, fewer than the six required to ensure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

There is a grace period that prevents conferences from immediately being stripped of automatic NCAA Tournament bids, however, so that will allow the Summit to continue to award an automatic bid this season with just five members. The situation will be remedied beginning next season, when Northern Colorado joins as an associate member for baseball and St. Thomas moves up from Division III to join the league. 

Having seven members gives the league some breathing room from a baseball standpoint, but it still leaves it susceptible to falling at or below the six-team threshold as realignment at the mid- and low-major Division I level, spurred by FCS football, continues. That is certainly a storyline to watch in this league moving forward.  

The format of conference play in the Summit League this season is eight weekends of four-game series for a total of 32 conference games. As usual, the top four finishers in the league standings move on to the conference tournament.  

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone