State of College Baseball Press Conference

A press conference discussing the "State of College Baseball" was held prior to the College World Series. Included is a transcript of the press conference.

Included on the panel were Larry Templeton, Director of Athletics at Mississippi State University and chair of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee; Dennis Poppe, NCAA Managing Director of Football and Baseball; Kevin Lennon, NCAA Vice President for Membership Services; Todd Petr, NCAA Managing Director of Research; and Dave Keilitz, Executive Director of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).

Dave Keilitz, what are your thoughts about the possibility that college baseball will eventually receive additional scholarships?
Dave Keilitz "That is a huge issue for us. And one we really hope to bring up again this summer. When the timing is right on it, it's hard to say. But we are very hopeful that is something that will happen down the line. Keep in mind that this is not going to be an easy thing even with our own coaches because better than half of our 283 Division-I programs have less than 11.7 scholarships. So, there are those out there that will say why do I want an increase from 11.7 to 13 or 14 when I only have 8 and my school is probably not going to give me any more and we will fall farther behind. But, it is a big issue. We are the lowest funded of all the NCAA programs as scholarships per number of student-athletes that are in the program. We think our student-athletes are deserving of it. We think it will improve our programs. It will be something that we will pursue. We just have to find the right time to do that."

This is for Larry Templeton. You said at the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) back in January that, as far as the academic issues that we have facing baseball, this is the most serious time that we have in the history of the game. Now that the Executive Committee of the NCAA has come out with their ruling, how do you think this will benefit college baseball?
Larry Templeton "When we met with the American Baseball Coaches in January we didn't want this to come to them as a huge surprise. It was an issue that was laying before a number of us that were involved with college baseball and Division-I. We asked for the opportunity to have some input into this. Everyone needs to understand that this is not an NCAA staff driven proposal. There were 26 of us that served on this committee. There were 2 presidents. I think there were 4 of 5 commissioners. There were about 9 athletic directors and 3 baseball coaches. We all came from varied programs, ones that were fully scholarship and lower numbers that Dave Keilitz talked about.

"As we worked our way through this process, we looked at it as more than just an academic problem. The young guys in our baseball programs across the nation have the ability to perform better. The NCAA staff provided us with the data that proved that. We just needed to put a system in place to give these young guys the opportunity to concentrate on academics as well as baseball. And it can be done. I'm proud to tell you that this baseball team that is representing my university had a team GPA of 3.2 this spring semester while playing 53 games. There are 10 kids on this team that are Presidential Scholars that had 3.8 or better GPA on a 4.0 scale. So, we know it can be done. We just have to put the system in place to help make it work.

"And I think the Board of Directors and the presidents listened to us. But Dave is right, it needs some tweaking. That is why we have the (NCAA) Baseball Issues Committee. We will meet in San Diego later. We are listening to the baseball coaches. Dave Keilitz's organization (the ABCA), Dennis Pope (of the NCAA), the NCAA Baseball Committee and two of our guys who are sitting here today are listening to what our coaches are saying. We will go to the (NCAA Baseball) Issues Committee to see if there are some things that we can do to adjust it a little bit."

This is to Dave again, other than the scholarship issue, what are some other issues that coaches have told you they would like to see addressed?
Dave Keilitz "(More scholarships) is the biggest issue. Another issue that the majority of our coaches would like to get is at least one graduate assistant. As of now, we have a head coach and two assistant coaches, so we don't have a full staff. I think most of us who have been around for awhile have been grad assistants. That is also on the books and may be something that can happen on down the road. Those are the two big issues right now.

"But we have to go back and also look at what has happened in the last 10 years. I think one of the greatest things to happen was the expansion to 64 teams (in the NCAA baseball regionals) and the addition of the Super Regionals. Now there are so many programs that feel they have an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament due to the 64. There are other issues that the coaches have brought up that we have taken forward such as the change of season which goes into effect next year. There is the new starting date for practice and for the games also. Also, the change in fall practice procedures will help immensely. Off-season conditioning and skill development have also been passed. And steroid testing, which we have proposed. All of those were issues that we have had over the past 10 years and all have, basically, been approved by the NCAA Board of Directors through the proper channels.

"When you keep in mind all the things that have passed in recent years that have benefited our programs, I can say without question, having been involved in college baseball for 45 years, that there has never been a better time for college baseball than right now. And when you look at the field that is here (at the College World Series), there are a couple of teams here that if you had said five years ago that they were going to be in Omaha, people would have said no way. And there are more and more of those now. There are just so many more quality programs, so we are making great progress."

A question to Larry Templeton. Do you think there will be any tweaking of the tournament down the road to make it more inclusive as Division-I expands, such as play-in games and the geographic setup of the regionals and Super Regionals?
Larry Templeton "I don't think we are looking at play-in games.

"Last year, we had 35 bids to host a regional. I think this year that number was 54 to 55 and they came from various parts of the country. And you may have noticed that we put a Super Regional at Oregon State again. And we put regionals in places that we haven't before. I think the committee would like to move the tournament around to expose college baseball to more places, but we are not going to lose sight that teams earn the right to host a regional and the Super Regional.

"The other thing that our committee has really stressed in the past is the strength of schedule. We questioned some programs that didn't go outside their conference and play very good programs. If you look at what this committee did this year, you will notice that it rewarded some teams that accepted the challenge and played, what we considered, good baseball programs (outside of their conference games)."

Larry, one of the things you talked about during the press conference about selecting the regionals and regionals brackets was having neutral site regionals. You said a few of the sites this year were neutral sites. What did you see from the neutral sites this year and were you pleased with what you saw?
Larry Templeton "I think we were pleased. We are anxious to see the game reports and the financial reports. I think the Myrtle Beach and Round Rock sites were very good. The guys who were at those sites said they had a great experience. But, as an Athletic Director, I am a proponent of not going to all neutral sites. I think we should go to some, but I think it is a reward to programs that are successful and have fan support. We saw that at our place (Mississippi State) with the Super Regional, something that we hadn't been able to host since we started Super Regionals. And, to be honest with you, it put a lot of life back into our baseball family."

For those of us who live in Omaha, there has been a lot of talk about building a new stadium. And possibly the NCAA wanting to move the College World Series to another city. Is that still being talked about? If so, what is the likelihood of it happening?
Dennis Poppe"We have three options, two of which are more viable than the other at this point in time. But you always have to keep your options open. One is renovate (current College World Series stadium site) Rosenblatt (Stadium) to make it the state of art facility that it has been for many years so that it stays that way into the future. The second option is, if that is not feasible due to the structure that we currently have here, then we build a new stadium. The third option, which is moving it somewhere else, is probably not one we are going to consider for some time. But I can never say it won't be a consideration.

"What we, the Division-I Baseball Committee, are doing right now is working with College World Series, Inc., our local organizing committee in Omaha, and the major's office to explore all options. This event has reached national status and is demanding the best quality facility and the best playing conditions that the young men can have. And another aspect is the best atmosphere and amenities for the fans that come here to support this event. When people talk about coming to the College World Series, they not only say they are going to Omaha, but that they are going to Rosenblatt. And we obviously have liked the arrangement for 57 years. This is the home of the College World Series, so leaving it would not be easy. So, every option will be reviewed in renovating it. Or, every option will be looked at it as to whether we will build a new stadium. We are talking long-term. We still have three years on the agreement with College World Series, Inc."

Dave Keilitz "Let me speak from a coaches standpoint, this is a great spot. When coaches talk to their teams and fans they don't talk to them about going to the College World Series. They talk about going to Omaha and everybody knows what that means. Anybody who knows anything about college baseball knowns what going to Omaha means. I have nothing to do with moving it, but we know that is is a great, great spot."

Larry Templeton "I think the committee is more interested in taking care of the 200 young men who are going to play the game. We want this to continue to be a great experience for the 25 young guys that put on the uniforms of the great institutions here. Whatever we do, that will be what we put as the top priority for the committee. The people of Omaha have been kind enough to throw a lot of options at us and we will look at all of them."

Dave Keilitz, how about talking about the change of season and the schedule for next year.
Dave Keilitz "We, the American Baseball Coaches Association along with the Baseball Committee and the Issues Committee, proposed a common starting date. Right now, it's spread out where some schools start as early as the middle of January, while there are others that can't even get outside until the first or second week of April. This was kicked around for a long, long time. As you may recall, we moved the season back a couple of weeks a few years ago. One week was added for the Super Regionals and one was added for better weather.

"Next year, you can't start practice prior to February 1st, although you can start later than that. The first game next year will be February 22nd. That also changes our fall practice, which helps considerably with most programs, where you have a window of time of 45 days during the months of September, October and November for your fall practice. That means you won't have any wasted days in case of rain. The coaches are very excited about that."

This is a follow-up to the change of season plan, is there any concern about the excess travel burden due to condensing the season a little bit? And is there any talk of extending the end of the season?
Dave Keilitz "There is a concern about that. But keep in mind that 60% to 65% of our programs have been living with that short season for a long time. All the northern schools and middle belt schools have and have handled it well. The schools that aren't used to it are the ones that start in January and, basically, only play conference games Friday, Saturday and Sunday (late in the season). Now, they will have about four weeks where they have an additional two mid-week games.

"Personally, I would like to go a week longer because it would give programs another week of good weather, especially in the north and middle belt. But there are many things that would have to be worked out, such as academic and financial concerns."

How big of a problem is steroids in college baseball? And what kind of proposals are in the works about that?
Dave Keilitz "First of all, there are no proposals in the works because we think we have what we want. As for the first part, we really don't know. Steroid testing has been done by the NCAA for a number of years. And those tests have shown that it isn't a problem. But we have surveyed our coaches about additional steroid testing. And better than 85% of our coaches replied that they wanted additional steroid testing. I would like to think that if you know you are going to be tested each year - all 283 Division-I programs - even in summer ball, I would like to think they won't use them."

Todd Petr "In terms of a problem, the data that we have from surveys of student-athletes and the testing of them, there is no indication that the use of steroids have even reached 1% among student-athletes who play college baseball. So, the evidence shows that there hasn't been significant use among college baseball players."

How does APR impact baseball as far as reaching the goals of academic enhancement?
Kevin Lennon "First of all, the goals of the entire academic reform movement are not to penalize institutions. They are to improve the academic performance of our student-athletes. I think the baseball working group kept that as their primary focus. How do we, from a student-athlete well-being perspective, create a culture that will lead more young people to earning their degree? That is what we are about as a higher education organization. Baseball, obviously, took some significant steps to address that.

"Part of the APR will improve due to the fall certification regulations. And certainly limiting the movement of students in terms of transferring (from one school to another) will help. The NCAA also has a new rule that applies to all sports that will require a student to be academically eligible before (he or she) can transfer and get a scholarship at a new program. That will have a particular impact in the sport of basketball. This is the first year we will see how that regulation comes into play."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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