Leveling the Playing Field

It looks like West Virginia is in good shape to make a run at its first NCAA regional appearance since 1996.

The Mountaineers are 26-17 (9-8 Big 12 Conference) after a series win against No. 19 Texas, and find themselves at No. 21 in the RPI heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

It's a run that WVU has been able to make despite playing one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in recent memory, and the first 20 games coming on the road - on account of not being able to play home games for the first month of the season due to bad weather in Morgantown.

That is a predicament that many northern teams have to deal with throughout the college baseball season, which begins in the middle of February. But it's one that could be fixed soon if West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey has anything to say about it.

"It's clearly pretty unfair for about half the nation," Mazey said during a teleconference Monday afternoon. "Prior to this weekend against Texas, all of those home games we have had were really good games to watch and we were playing well, everyone was playing pretty well at the time, but we only had a few hundred people in the stands.

"That's for no other reason than they didn't want to sit in the cold and the snowstorms during a college baseball game."

Five years ago, Mazey meticulously researched the attendance numbers and records of northern and southern schools, and came away with a proposal that would change the college baseball schedule in a way that will help make level the playing field and give schools in colder weather areas a better chance.

Instead of beginning in February, practice will start the week after Spring Break - giving players the opportunity to go home for Easter and enjoy the break.

"I've done a lot of research and have seen the benefits and advantages of playing in the summer, and I'm going to push as hard as I can for that to get done," Mazey said.

While it appears that many southern schools would not be in favor of the switch, Mazey said that when he told the other Big 12 coaches about the possibility of making the switch, only one coach voted against it.

"A couple things have to happen. You have to convince the coaches who have such an unbelievable competitive advantage to do what's in the best interest of the sport and not what's in the best interest of them personally," Mazey said. "If that doesn't happen, you have to convince somebody to have a vote on what's in the best interest of college baseball. You'd have to bypass the coaches and go to somebody else who can see the bigger picture."

For Mazey, it seems like the latest in a long line of challenges he has stepped up to the plate for. He's had experience of taking over programs that appeared to have plenty of problems that needed fixed before becoming successful, and he's been able to accomplish those challenges. Now he's setting his sights a little higher.

"I'm crazy enough to think I have a chance to do anything," Mazey said. "When I took this job, I thought I had a chance to compete with Texas and Oklahoma and draw fans here to Morgantown and get a great program started, but I don't think a lot of other people believed it could happen.

"The reason I started this proposal to start with is when my little boy Weston was born. If he's ever fortunate enough to play college baseball, I don't want his options to be limited, like mine were, to schools in the south ... Hopefully by the time he graduates from high school, it'll be an even playing field for everyone across the board."

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