Michigan Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich lead proponent for later college baseball season
By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. — A group of Power Five coaches led by Michigan’s Erik Bakich is proposing a later start to the college baseball season to trim expenses in the post-coronavirus era, make the game more fan friendly and reduce injury risk to players.
Under the 35-page proposal titled “New Baseball Model,” there would be nine weeks of preseason practice 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 wrap up the last week of July. The regular season currently begins the third week of February and the CWS runs into the last week of June.
Past efforts to push back the season were rooted in cold-weather schools’ concerns about competitive equity because they had to travel to warmer climates in the South or West to play games the first month of the season.
The impetus this time is budget management.
“We operate at a significant financial net loss among almost all teams,” Bakich said Friday. “There are only a few that operate where they are actually making a profit or covering their costs. The majority of college baseball is a drain on athletic departments, and in the post-COVID era that is not a good combination when universities are looking to improve their fiscal bottom lines.”
Bowling Green and Furman recently announced they’ve dropped their baseball programs to save money.
Bakich said 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 the college season was shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak in March.
Bakich said the next step is to recruit athletic directors who will take up the cause, bring it to faculty athletic representatives and presidents, and get it entered into the NCAA legislative process. The hope is the new schedule would be in place in 2022.
Bakich said five-year attendance trends show college teams draw bigger crowds in April and May than they do in February and March, and the potential is there for even bigger turnouts in June.
“We looked at why that is,” Bakich said, “and even in warm-weather places it’s still cold in March. But it’s also basketball season. A collegiate fan can only invest their energy in so many places.”
The proposal said northern teams could save about $200,000 in travel costs by not having to go South and West early in the season and there would be more regional scheduling.