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Softball commentary: SEC vs. Pac-10 at the Women’s College World Series

Head+coach+Mike+Candrea+walks+off+the+field+after+freshman+Matte+Haack+hit+a+solo+home+run+in+extra+innings+as+Arizona+defeated+Hofstra+10-6+in+Super+Regional+play+on+May+23+at+Hillenbrand+Stadium.
Head coach Mike Candrea walks off the field after freshman Matte Haack hit a solo home run in extra innings as Arizona defeated Hofstra 10-6 in Super Regional play on May 23 at Hillenbrand Stadium.

The 2010 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., has the softball world wondering which of the eight remaining teams will be the next to etch its name into the history books.

But in the larger scheme of college softball, there has been a new question slowly forming, not between which of two teams is superior, but between which of two conferences — the Pacific 10 Conference and the Southeastern Conference — is superior.

The Pac-10 has dominated the softball scene since the first NCAA championship took place in 1982, with UCLA and Arizona leading the “”Conference of Champions””, notching 11 and eight national championships, respectively.

But recently, the dominance hasn’t just been limited to the west cost, and analysts around the country have been buzzing about the SEC as the new elite power conference in college softball.

There’s no arguing that battles between the Pac-10 and SEC have become prized matchups.

There’s no arguing that the SEC hasn’t improved its programs. There’s even no arguing that the SEC now competes with the Pac-10 in terms of recruiting, stadiums, and attendance.

But to say that the SEC is now the elite conference in the nation is far from established and certainly hasn’t been proven.

A proclaimed dominance in a sport boils down to one thing – winning. Claiming the national championship. Bring it back to the school year after year. The reputation of being the best in the nation.

In the category of dominance, the SEC hasn’t matched up.

The elevation of the SEC to a level as high as the Pac-10’s, while encouraging for the growth of softball on a national level, is just simply premature.

Taking a look at the 2009 season, in which both conferences advanced three respective teams to the WCWS, will tell you that.

The Pac-10 had six of eight programs advanced to the Regional round in 2009. The SEC had nine of twelve.

The Pac-10 had six of eight programs advanced to the Super Regional round. The SEC had three of twelve.

The Pac-10 had two teams advance to the WCWS by winning their Super Regional on the road. The SEC had zero reach by winning on the road.

The Pac-10 took home its 22nd championship. The SEC fell to the Pac-10 in the championship series for the second time in three years.

The lack of a championship proves the SEC hasn’t fully arrived. That’s not to say the increase in success from the SEC isn’t something to be applauded. Anytime a sport becomes more competitive nationally, it does nothing but make it more entertaining across the board.

“”It wasn’t a surprise, it was just a matter of time,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said at the 2009 WCWS. “”I think it’s a great thing for our sport and why our sport is growing.  It’s not just a regional thing anymore; it’s from coast to coast.””

But just because the SEC has increased its appearances at the WCWS doesn’t mean it claims the title as the only rival conference.

In fact, the Big 12 Conference has nearly as many appearances as the SEC since 2003. The Big 10 Conference has considerably fewer appearances but has something the SEC doesn’t — a championship, claimed by Michigan in 2005.

The saga between the Pac-10 and the SEC continues in 2010 WCWS starting Thursday.

Of the eight teams in Oklahoma City, each conference has three respective teams representing its region.

Three of the first four games during the series will feature a Pac-10 school against an SEC school.

Those head-to-head games will be good indicators of just how far the SEC has come.

But the fact is that until the Pac-10 as a conference is consistently dethroned, it still holds the grip on the collegiate softball world.

 

By the numbers

Here’s the number of appearances and championships for each conference since the 2003 season:

 

Conference

Appearances

Championships

Pacific 10

23

6

Southeastern

11

0

Big 12

10

0

Big 10

4

1

 

 

 

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