Opinion Corner: A needless changeWell, the NAIA baseball powers that be should be happy — again. When the World Series begins Friday in Lewiston it will be a collection of Blue Blood programs, which apparently is all they’re interested in sending to Idaho.
By: Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun
Well, the NAIA baseball powers that be should be happy — again.
When the World Series begins Friday in Lewiston it will be a collection of Blue Blood programs, which apparently is all they’re interested in sending to Idaho.
A couple years back, the NAIA decided to radically upturn its postseason format. Prior to 2009, teams had to earn their way to a region tournament, then if they won that, they would have to win a best 2-out-3 super regional — regional being the operative word here.
These six-team region tournaments would be the best teams from a geographic area. Think Jamestown College, Dickinson State, Mayville State, Northwestern (Iowa), Morningside (Iowa), Briar Cliff (Iowa). Basically the top teams from the DAC and GPAC having a playoff to earn one spot in the super regional.
Whoever won that regional tournament would then get to play an NAIA powerhouse like Bellevue (Neb.) and would have to win that series (2-out-of-3) to advance to the World Series.
The path described above was not easy. In fact, it was hard and any team good enough to survive that gauntlet certainly had earned their trip to Idaho. Anyone that would dispute that knows nothing about baseball, particularly NAIA baseball.
In 2009, everything changed.
The current postseason format has nine, five-team brackets, meaning instead of the 72 teams that previously qualified for the national tournament, that number has been whittled down to 45.
Additionally, those nine host sites are almost exclusively held in southern, warm-weather states that already have a massive advantage in constructing a team with the numbers and types of players they have easy access too.
As a whole, whether it’s NCAA Division I, II or NAIA baseball, the south has better college baseball. No one disputes that, and they should. They have easy access to thousands upon thousands of college-caliber players. On top of that, they can start practicing outside in January and February in many cases, whereas teams like the Jimmies are often times shoveling a parking lot to shag fly balls in April — literally.
This year, the NAIA World Series features two teams each from Oklahoma and Tennessee and one from Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana. Somehow, a team from Pennsylvania snuck in (don’t tell the cartel of coaches in the south that, they may further gerrymander the brackets next year). There are also two teams from Idaho, but one of them is host Lewis & Clark State, who has apparently been anointed host for life —similar to that of becoming a chief justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Why the NAIA would adopt the change is a mystery. The inherent advantages teams from the south already have in building successful college baseball programs are massive. Why the deck had to be additionally stacked in their favor when it comes to filling out the World Series makes no sense especially when you factor in the current dynamics of the NAIA.
Can you name a school in recent years that decided to leave where they were and join the NAIA? I can’t and I cover this stuff for a living.
Can you think of a school that has left in recent years? U-Mary, Minot State, Sioux Falls, Black Hills State, South Dakota Mines, William Jewell (Missouri), Simon Fraser (British Columbia) — just to name seven. There are many more.
If I was in charge of an entity closer to dying than thriving, I wouldn’t be playing favorites. I’d be trying to play nice and make friends with everybody.
As it pertains to the NAIA and its postseason format in baseball, that clearly is not happening.
As the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?
If there is a positive in this, it is that there is a simple solution.
Considering the totally unbalanced clout coaches in the south appear to have, arguing to revert back to the way it was is a hopeless proposition. So instead, just add a true north regional.
It would be played in North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa on a rotating basis. All three of those states produce quality teams year-in and year-out, so it’s plenty justified. This year the northern-most regional was held in Kansas — there isn’t anything northern about Kansas.
Considering the glacial pace that collegiate governing bodies, conferences and universities uniformly move at, it’s amazing such a dramatic change ever happened to begin with. The beauty of it is making this perfectly fair tweak to the system would be sensible and quite painless, which means it likely will never happen.
Sun sports writer Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com