Bowling Green State Reverses Course, Reinstates Baseball Program
Less than three weeks after Bowling Green State announced it had eliminated its baseball program, effective immediately, the university reversed course and on Tuesday announced the program was reinstated, effective immediately.
BGSU reversed course after alumni and donors committed $1.5 million over the next three years. In a statement released by the athletic department, the university committed to working with a group of baseball alumni to find a long-term solution to funding the program.
“BGSU is grateful for its alumni and friends who have stepped up during this difficult time to ensure their alma mater is positioned to thrive on the other side of the current COVID-19 crisis,” it stated. “We are inspired by the efforts of our baseball alumni, and we look forward to continuing to cultivate and reinvigorate all BGSU alumni. We are excited for Opening Day in the spring.”
BGSU announced the program’s elimination May 15, as a part of a larger athletic department restructuring to save $2 million. Cutting baseball was said to save the university $500,000 annually. It became the first school to eliminate baseball in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the financial crisis that is affecting college athletics. Furman followed May 18 and the fate of Chicago State’s program lies with the school’s Board of Regents.
But after a whirlwind two weeks and an outpouring of support from the BGSU baseball community, including Orel Hershiser, the program’s most famous alumnus, the program has been revived.
BGSU will now have to go about reversing the damage of the last two weeks. Essentially the Falcons entire roster entered the transfer portal to explore their options. That does not commit a player to leaving – it only makes it possible for other schools to contact him – but some may not wish to return. Infielder Trent Farquar (Michigan State), lefthander Mason Kolean (Connecticut), catcher Nick Neibauer (Miami (Ohio)) and righthander Jeremy Spezia (Grand Valley State) and lefthander Jay Ward (Texas-San Antonio) have all transferred already (a sixth player – outfielder Jake Wilson (Liberty) – had transferred before the program was shuttered). Its recruits all reopened their recruitment.
But the most critical part of the process – the fundraising – has been completed, giving BGSU the green light to return. The reversal calls to mind the effort to save baseball at California in 2011. After the school announced Sept. 29, 2010, that baseball would be eliminated following the 2011 season, the program rallied its alumni and donors to raise $9.6 million in six months to convince the university to reverse its decision. The Cal Baseball Foundation has continued to fundraise over the last nine years to endow the program.
BGSU was the third Mid-American Conference school to cut baseball this decade, joining Akron (2015) and Buffalo (2017). Now, the Falcons join the Zips, who returned to the diamond this spring, in quickly reversing that decision.
Bowling Green has a strong baseball history, dating to 1915. The program produced Hershiser and other big leaguers like John Berti, Doug Blair, Roger McDowell and Nolan Reimold. The Falcons reached the NCAA Tournament four times, most recently in 2013 when they made a surprising run through the MAC Tournament as the No. 6 seed.
While the Falcons have fallen on hard times on the diamond over the last decade, they now will have a chance at a comeback. After what appeared to be a death knell two weeks ago, a chance is all they can ask for.