Sunday Morning Game Brewing

Earlier this year the Southeastern Conference unveiled special logos and slogans to promote attendance at the league's baseball game encouraging fans to "Pack the Parks" in the "Drive for 1.5 (million in combined attendance)", but if you want to help that effort you will need get to Sewell-Thomas Field early Sunday for Alabama's 11 a.m. first pitch against Arkansas.

There will also be a time curfew placed on the game, where no inning shall begin after time to be determined. With Arkansas' flight leaving at 4:45 p.m., the approximate cutoff time for a start of an inning is expected to be approximately 1:45-2 p.m.

The early start is due to the league's travel policy, which implements a curfew on games in which commercial air travel is involved. Alabama would prefer to start its Sunday home games as close to 2 p.m. as possible.

"The conference policy is that if a visiting team is using commercial air travel it must take the last possible flight on Sunday. No stay-overs on Sunday night are allowed," SEC Associate Commissioner Charles Bloom said.

If the game goes more than five innings, but ends short of a complete nine-inning game, the game will count towards Southeastern Conference standings and statistics, but as current rules stand it will not count towards NCAA records and the RPI used to select and seed NCAA Regionals.

"In terms of RPI, we would have to appeal to the NCAA," Bloom said.

The travel curfew impacted the Razorbacks series with Auburn earlier this season, when the game's start time was set at 10:30 a.m. All parties admit that the Alabama-Arkansas 11 a.m. Sunday start is not ideal, but it could have been even earlier.

"Initially the game was at 10:00, then 10:30, and the latest we could push it back to was 11 a.m.," Alabama Associate AD Kevin Almond said. "We don't like it but we have to live with it. 11:00 is better than 10:00.

"It could be a pivotal game as far as the SEC standings. It's also a big weekend because we're the only game in town (no other UA sports are competing in Tuscaloosa). A lot times we compete against ourselves, and we are trying to market this to get our fans out there."

One big reason the policy exists is to ensure that baseball players are back to school in time for classes on Monday, but Arkansas' final exams are this week and no classes are scheduled for next week.

"Next year the league needs to come up with a better plan to deal with Arkansas," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "You lose any home field advantage playing on Sunday morning."

Bloom said there might have been a waiver allowed for Sunday's game, but at the time Arkansas made their travel arrangements there was no policy in place for them to stay over.

Arkansas' baseball sports information director Josh Maxon said changing the travel plans would have been cost prohibitive.

"We'd like to get the game in," he said. "We couldn't get anything (commercial flight) as late as we wanted to get back here but we're stuck with playing early this week."

The travel issues are not new for the league, and Bloom said the travel policy will be revisited after the season.

"It's not an ideal situation and hopefully we'll see these issues be minimized in the future." Bloom said. There have been, "8-10 games where games started at noon or earlier because of air travel. It's not a new issue for us. We don't want to inconvenience too many people and we want to get as many people to watch the games that want to."

"Our goal is to get nine innings in. Our goal is, on Sunday, to get an equitable start time."


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