OMAHA, Neb. – A group of Power Five coaches led by Erik Bakich of Michigan propose a later start to college baseball season to reduce costs in the post-coronavirus era, make the game more fan-friendly and reduce player injury risk .
Under the 35-page proposal titled “New Baseball Model”, nine weeks of preseason would be trained instead of five, the regular season would run from the third week of March to the third week of June, and the College World Series would end the last week of July. The regular season currently begins in the third week of February and the CWS runs in the last week of June.
Past attempts to curb the season were rooted in cold weather schools’ concerns about competitiveness, as they had to travel to warmer climates in the south or west to play matches the first month of the season.
The impetus this time is budget management.
“We have a significant net financial loss across almost all teams,” Bakich said Friday. “Only a few operate where they actually make a profit or cover their costs. The majority of college baseball is an attack on athletic departments, and in the post-COVID era, that’s not a good combination when universities are looking to improve their tax results. ”
Bowling Green and Furman recently announced that they have quit their baseball programs to save money.
Bakich said that he, Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin, Louisville’s Dan McDonnell, TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle and UCLA’s John Savage began looking at changes to help the sport shortly after college season ended due to the March virus outbreak.
The core group made Zoom calls with coaches from top baseball schools from all regions, and discussions led to the proposal.
Bakich said the next step is to recruit athletic directors who take on the matter, take them to faculty athletic representatives and presidents, and bring them into the NCAA’s legislative process. The hope is that the new schedule will apply in 2022.
Bakich said five-year attendance trends show that university teams draw more visitors in April and May than in February and March, and the potential is there for even greater turnouts in June.
“We looked at why that is,” Bakich said, “and even in hot weather, it’s still cold in March. But it’s also basketball season. A collegiate fan can only invest his energy in so many places.”
The proposal said northern teams could save about $ 200,000 in travel costs by not traveling south and west early in the season and that there would be more regional planning.
A 17-year Major League Baseball survey found that the majority of arm injuries occur in spring training or shortly after the start of the season. Bakich said that due to privacy laws, there are no comparable studies for baseball injuries at universities.
“The typical spring training for a professional team is six to seven weeks,” Bakich said. “We as amateurs get less lead time than professional players, and that’s a problem. What we do is downright stupid.”
Bakich said that players will miss one or two days of lessons every week if they travel by plane for games, and that schools with a semester schedule would play for about four weeks without academic conflict if the season started later.
Opponents argue that pushing back the season would hurt summer leagues like the Cape Cod League. Bakich pointed out that players from about 235 Division I teams – those who don’t make it to the NCAA tournament – can report to their summer teams in late June or early July. Non-Division I players will have the opportunity to complete summer rosters.
There would also be a cost of housing and feeding players on campuses for a month longer.
A later start probably does not affect the MLB concept. College coaches believe that MLB tends to keep the draft in July rather than in the future, and the possibility of contracting small leagues could affect the structure for beginner development.
Bakich said the proposal, first reported by D1Baseball.com, has received widespread approval from coaches.
“It’s not a model that’s right for everyone,” he said, “but it’s best for everyone. It’s best for our sport and for the growth of college baseball.”