Imagine a warm June night, a packed baseball stadium and two of the biggest names in college athletics battling for a championship.
The College World Series comes to mind, right?
How about Michigan and Ohio State with the Big Ten title on the line?
Minnesota’s John Anderson, the winningest baseball coach in Big Ten history, is pushing for his conference to break away from the NCAA’s traditional February-to-June schedule and play when the weather in the northern climes is more favorable. In short, the Big Ten’s boys of summer would be on the field in summer.
Such a move would cost the Big Ten schools any shot at playing in the NCAA tournament. That doesn’t bother Anderson.
“There were four SEC teams in the College World Series last year. We’re never going to catch those people,” he said. “The system works for them, and they’re not going to want to change it. People are going to criticize this idea, but we need to get people talking about it.”
Big Ten leadership has spent the last decade trying to provide northern teams greater access to an NCAA tournament usually dominated by schools from the South, Southwest and West.
Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia said he and Commissioner Jim Delany don’t dismiss Anderson’s idea, even though it would be hard to imagine breaking away from the traditional NCAA baseball format.
“But there may be a point in time where we’ve felt like we’ve exhausted all the options we felt were reasonable,” Traviolia said, “and that may be the case.”
The Big Ten is instead working on a proposal that would allow teams across the nation to play up to 14 non-conference games in the fall. The results of those fall games would carry over to the spring for consideration in the NCAA tournament selection process.
A team choosing to play in the fall could resume its season later than the current mid-February start date and avoid those expensive trips to the Sun Belt. Proponents say northern teams could build a stronger RPI, the key component weighed by the selection committee, because they would have more home games.
Purdue coach Doug Schreiber, who came up with the fall-spring model, said the fall games would be optional and the trick would be to lure teams from the power conferences to come north in the fall.
NCAA rules don’t prohibit conferences or individual schools from playing in the summer, as long as they don’t exceed 56 regular-season games.
“They can do what they want,” NCAA vice president for baseball and football Dennis Poppe said. “Obviously, they’re diminishing their chance for selection into the (NCAA) tournament.”