The 2012 NCAA Men’s Baseball Tournament begins tomorrow as 64 teams will compete for the eight coveted spots in Omaha at the College World Series. Purdue and Michigan State are this year’s representatives from the Big Ten Conference. A few months ago Minnesota coach John Anderson mentioned the Big Ten would be better off if it scrapped the current baseball structure and committed to playing its season during the summer. The comment sparked an interesting debate among college baseball enthusiasts. It should come as no surprise it is easier to play baseball in Big Ten cities such as Minneapolis and Ann Arbor in June than it is in February when the college baseball season begins. However, this would guarantee the Big Ten would not participate in the College World Series.
There are no NCAA rules against playing in the summer. The only restriction is a school can play a maximum 56 regular season games. The Big Ten is also floating the more believable option of playing some regular season games in the fall.
The Big Ten is regularly a one to two bid conference in baseball. It has not had a team in the College World Series since Michigan in 1984 and the last time a Big Ten team won a National Title? Well, you have to go back to Ohio State in 1966. For reference, this year the SEC had eight teams in the field of 64. Last year it sent three teams to the College World Series (Champion South Carolina, Runner up Florida and Vanderbilt). The gap is probably too far to make up at this point unless major reform is undertaken.
While the idea is probably not plausible, will playing in the summer be a difference maker for the Big Ten? One would assume attendance would increase if baseball was played during the warmer months. There may be a spike with programming from the Big Ten Network as time slots would be easier to fill during the summer. Would that keep northern baseball players closer to home? Another question to consider is would other northern conferences be willing to follow suit? My guess is no on both. The allure of playing in Omaha, no matter how remote the odds, will always trump the alternative.