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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    NCAA’s new rule backfires

    Bryan Roy - Sports writer
    Bryan Roy – Sports writer

    Soulja Roy

    Like Pacman Jones in a strip club, this season’s new condensed college baseball schedule is just a stupid idea.

    The Arizona baseball team opens a mid-week, two-game series at San Diego State today – the team’s second Tuesday-Wednesday tandem in a two-week span. Out of the Wildcats’ last 14 games, 11 have been on the road.

    That’s playing road games on March 18, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26 and April 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. That’s not including plane rides to Los Angeles, Oklahoma, Seattle and San Diego, thanks to the NCAA’s effort to even the playing field between northern schools and warm-weather schools.

    Beginning this season, the NCAA approved the compression of college baseball’s schedule to 13 weeks, which stemmed from the Big Ten Conference’s proposal. Instead of traditionally beginning in late January, the Wildcats began on Feb. 22 this season.

    The NCAA Board of Directors wanted a fair balance between teams on the field, but its plan backfired with a new unfair balance off the field, pulling students from classrooms.

    Although the NCAA always stresses the “”student-athlete”” tag, it’s hard to comprehend its intensions with a move that puts tutors and study sessions on airplanes and in hotel rooms.

    “”I don’t know how we’re going to be eligible,”” Lopez said April 2. “”I’ve never said that before and I’m a guy who knows the importance of a degree. But we’re just gone all the time.

    “”I think we’ve just made it easier for our guys to say, ‘Forget school, I’m gonna concentrate on hitting .350.’ “”

    No. 23 Michigan represents the only Big Ten Conference team in the Baseball America Top 25 poll this week. The birthplace and home of the College World Series No. 6 Nebraska joins Michigan as the only two cold weather schools.

    The remaining 23 teams lie in the Sun Belt, penalized for perfect weather and hoping to remain academically eligible.

    “”For us, it’s really no different – this is what we have to live with,”” said Michigan baseball head coach Rich Maloney in a phone interview. “” Other people say how they don’t like it, where in reality that’s all we’ve ever known.””

    Yesterday temperature finally hit 70 degrees in Ann Arbor, Mich., but Maloney’s squad has only practiced outdoors once since this season.

    No April Fools’ joke: Maloney wants the date pushed back even further to April 1, allowing for the baseball-rich markets like Detroit, New York and Boston to be represented and expand college baseball nationally. Instead, the Sun Belt quarantines the majority of college baseball’s interest.

    Since many Big Ten baseball stadiums don’t have lights, Maloney’s squad must play their four-game weekend series during the afternoon. With cold nights still lingering in the North during February and March, Maloney doesn’t like night games until after April 15.

    “”If they did an April 1 date, then the weather factor wouldn’t be an issue and everybody would truly be on the same page,”” Maloney said. “”I think you’ll see this was a step in the right direction, but as far as leveling the playing field, I can’t say that.””

    Maloney’s key to the currently non-existent even competition includes the addition of more home games for cold weather schools. After beginning the season with 15 straight road games, Michigan’s first five of seven home games were postponed due to weather from March 19-28.

    With only 23 home games all season, Maloney can’t compete with Pacific 10 Conference schools like ASU, which plays 40 home games.

    “”You give me 18 more games playing at home, and let me play a good opponent – let me bring Arizona or somebody to Michigan to play and I’ll take my chances of playing at home,”” said Maloney, who brings a home winning percentage of about 70 percent. “”And I would be glad to play an opponent but I can’t get any of those opponents to come here.

    “”When you ask about neutralizing or making a level playing field – no, that is a step in the right direction but it’s a small step,””

    Maloney added. “”But it’s one that in order to make it level, there’s going to be other changes that will have to occur.””

    Tucson may be an isolated metropolitan area, prompting frequent plane rides around the Southwest, but Maloney’s squad can only boost its Ratings Percentage Index by traveling far South. The Wolverines played four games in Conway, S.C., boosting the program to a No. 29 RPI.

    But since returning home to Ann Arbor, Mich., and winning nine of its last 11 games, Michigan dropped to the No. 70 RPI due to the lack of competition up north.

    “”I can’t play an opponent that has a (good) RPI when I come home,”” Maloney said. “”Anybody that I play doesn’t allow us to change our RPI because of geographic.

    “”We’re kind of in a stuck mode,”” he added.

    Just like college baseball athletes away from the classroom.

    -Bryan Roy is a journalism freshman. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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