Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What if there was a College Baseball NIT?

College baseball is something which has grown into one of the biggest college sports in the nation. The sport has grown immeasurably in the last twenty years, as schools are spending more and more money on the sport, and more games are televised every year. In several states, college baseball has nearly overtaken college basketball as the #2 college sport behind football. Only a few seasons ago, it was a struggle to get more than a couple regionals on television. Now, all 16 NCAA regionals will be done on ESPN's networks.

The 64 teams for the 2013 NCAA Division I baseball tournament have been announced.

College baseball's postseason is one of the most exclusive in sports. 64 teams make the NCAAs, and that is it. Only 21% of the schools playing college baseball can play in the NCAA tournament. Some very good teams have been left out of the postseason this year, and almost every year since the 64-team tournament began in 1999.

This is much different from FBS college football, where 70 teams make the postseason, and there's years where teams with losing records have to host bowls, and college basketball, where 140 of 347 teams play in the postseason.

My plan is for a College Baseball NIT. It would take on a different name from the NIT. I would differentiate this from the NCAA tournament in every way possible. The NCAA tournament is held entirely at campus sites until the championship, when the games move to Omaha in the College World Series. In this, the championship would be held at campus sites in a three-game series.

The plan would be for all regular-season conference champions to automatically get a bid to this tournament, just like the NIT does in college basketball. This would put some emphasis back into the regular season schedules in these leagues. College baseball tends to be a sport that few care about outside of the Sunbelt and major conferences until late May.

In addition, I would change it around, making the tournament four 8-team double elimination regionals instead of having the 4-team regionals that the NCAA tournament has. The sites would be named in the previous off-season, allowing for time to get the cities ready for hosting these events.

These events could be held at minor league baseball stadiums, as dates could be held for road games. They also could be held in smaller towns that don't have a minor league team. The TV network that would televise games is unknown. With CBS, Fox, and NBC all having their own sports networks that need a lot of programming, these events could be televised.

This would lead up to the four regional winners meeting in two single-elimination semis at the highest seeded team, allowing for more national match-ups, before the best of three-game finals held at the home schools. This event would finish before the College World Series, and would run during the middle of the week before the event started, in order to give the CWS, one of the most underrated events in sports, the spotlight.

The 8-team format would allow teams to play games meaning something for seniors who have bad tastes in their mouths losing in conference tournaments, and provide experience for young players.

Smaller cities would also gain in hosting these events, providing a boost in tourism for the four cities picked to host regional tournaments and for the host schools picked later in the tournament. This would also help spur more interest in the game in other parts of the country.

College baseball is a growing sport, and adding a second tournament along with the NCAA would help boost the sport more.

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