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May 25, 2015

Dave Heeke

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the chair, the athletic director from Central Michigan University, Dave Heeke.

DAVE HEEKE: Looking forward to answering questions.

Q. I wanted to ask about the last hosting spot, which I assume was UC Santa Barbara. What went into that decision to go with Santa Barbara after -- a team that kind of stumbled the last weekend here as a third host in Southern California, leaving out a team like College of Charleston, let's say, in a region of the country where there are no hosts?
DAVE HEEKE: Well, we look at those teams and the host opportunities, take those 1 seeds very seriously. UC Santa Barbara has had an outstanding season. They're filled with a great pitching staff. While we look at individual kind of games here and there, we do take every game into consideration. We didn't really have a team completely stumble for an extended period of time. We really felt that Santa Barbara was very deserving and, again, College of Charleston was in that conversation. A few other teams were in that conversation that were very worthy of hosting, but we went side by side and we put them together and that's where we got -- we get input -- we have rankings across the country with our regional advisory committees. So they consistently ranked very, very high in the west among some other western teams that you might think would be obviously in consideration. So they were always among the top two in that regional advisory committee. That includes a chair from this committee as well as coaches from the region.

Q. The fact they're hosting three hours from campus, obviously you guys aren't concerned about that. But was that something that gave you pause, where again you've got other options maybe that are on campus?
DAVE HEEKE: Yeah, but again we're not setting precedent here. We've allowed other programs in the past to host at different sites than on campus. We were very well versed on the proposal and what they wanted to do. We think it's going to be an excellent, exciting site for college baseball. And again the performance, we selected them based on their performance to be a seed and we felt very comfortable with them hosting. And we think we've got a good region there.

Q. Can you tell us which teams were your last one or two that just missed hosting, or is that not public?
DAVE HEEKE: Yeah, I think we had conversations regarding College of Charleston, Oregon State. I think that's about it. Radford, excuse me, forgive me, I'm just trying to look through my series of notes and keeping them in order. But I think those three were definitely considered and talked about.

Q. Question about a pair of conference regular-season champions that missed out, Southeastern and North Florida. How close did they come to consideration?
DAVE HEEKE: Very close. They were up on our board through the entire process and again clubs that had done a very good job but they came into that last grouping with just slightly a hair less than those that we were able to move forward, that the committee felt they should move forward into the tournament. But lots of conversation. Again, we put them up there. We put them on the board. We put them side by side. And they just slipped below the line.

Q. UCLA over Florida for the top -- excuse me, over LSU for the top seed?
DAVE HEEKE: Again, we rely a lot on our rankings. We're tracking those very elite top-level seed teams. And UCLA has been there for much of the season. LSU is an outstanding club as well. There's such a fine line between the two. UCLA did not lose a series until that last weekend. I mean, they were a powerful group throughout the entire year. And ultimately, it was very close. But they were deemed to be our number one overall seed.

Q. Obviously a question about Michigan State was asked during the broadcast. Could you be a little more elaborative on it? Obviously the Oregon series was one with Michigan State to go on the road and take three from a team out there, but then also with the Big Ten getting five teams in, was there a question between Michigan State and Indiana at some point, whether or not five was too many or enough for the Big Ten? And just from a head-to-head standpoint you mentioned the teams on the outside looking out, just to be clear, Michigan State was not one of those?
DAVE HEEKE: They were.

Q. They were one of the last few out of the mix?
DAVE HEEKE: That's correct. There were several pieces to that. We looked at, Oregon clearly was a team that had become very hot, has played some great baseball, had some very significant wins over teams in the field, strong teams in the field. As far as is there too many or too few from a conference, we don't have that conversation. We don't keep track of really a tally board that says, well, we ought to put one more in here or not. We looked team by team. We line those up against each other and begin to make determinations that way. So Indiana had gotten into the tournament obviously prior to that but was a team that was under consideration for a period of time as well. And then ultimately that strong finish and those strong wins with Oregon began to tilt it in their direction. Again very fine lines. There were several teams in that what I would call -- we didn't have a one-on-one with Michigan State and Oregon. There were a few teams in that last group that we were having to compare and contrast all the way through. As I've said a couple times, teams are doing the right things. RPIs are trending in the right direction. They've got a real focus on what it takes to be in contention. And that also compresses and makes the decision-making very challenging for our committee. But ultimately the committee votes on that. All 10 members kind of put it together, and Oregon was the team that was ultimately selected there for that spot.

Q. What was it then for Michigan State that was kind of I guess the death knell, if you will, for the bid?
DAVE HEEKE: Just like there's not a trump card that gets anyone the overriding decision to get someone in, for that same matter, there's not one that gets you out. You begin to try to examine the overall body of work that just allows you to put those teams up against each other, and the committee, after again strong conversation and deliberation, felt that Oregon had just a slightly better than those other groups. Now again we're talking about three or four teams that were in that conversation.

Q. You being a Central Michigan guy, this might hit a little close to home. But of the teams that we've had visibility to, being on the bubble, they're really all power conference teams or at least conferences ranked near the top of the RPI this year. There's a sentiment among mid-major that they have to win the automatic bid, there are a very few that will get in otherwise. Could you comment on the deliberations of that and the message that the committee sends when Nevada or Southeastern or UNL, not only did they not get in, but they're not listed among the next four either?
DAVE HEEKE: Let me say this, all those teams were strongly considered. All those teams, whether you're that last four that were sitting there, those last groupings -- that last grouping of teams, they were in that and strongly considered. We're not trying to send any messages. We evaluate teams pretty straight across the board. Nevada, while they won a number of games, had an outstanding season. From a schedule standpoint, they didn't have any teams in that upper echelon that they were able to play to validate, let's say. I think that was one glaring drawback there. They did not have the schedule on those upper 50, those top 50s, that we could look to. So that was one thing. Again, all of those teams were up there side by side and without really bringing those sheets straight in front of me again and recreating exactly the conversations, again very good teams, it just shows the fine lines that are drawn. And it's not a trump card that you're from one league or from another league. It's just we try to look at those teams individually.

Q. So there was discussion on how this would be viewed? I mean, if you're a mid-major, what advice would you give the team, play more top 50s? Was that really the problem where you couldn't validate their results?
DAVE HEEKE: Those are strengths, I think increasing your schedule, while it's not always perfect and we don't know how teams will perform and where they will rank, we understand that, as far as scheduling. But, yes, in some of those cases I would say their strength of schedule overall did not allow the committee to really say, where are those wins when we start comparing them to other programs who have signature wins. What did they do to go out and schedule some games that would help? And we understand that there's some regional challenges to that. But we're talking teams that have the opportunity in these areas that they could play some of those teams. So I think that's it. We understand that the conference is what the conference is. You play the games that you're scheduled. And in those cases probably some strength on that nonconference schedule is beneficial.

Q. Kind of a bigger picture question: The new ball obviously has produced some favorable results this year. I guess moving forward into the tournament, what does the committee hope to see from a production standpoint, I guess, with the new ball? And second question is the park in Omaha hasn't gotten any smaller since last year. What does the committee hope to see once the eight teams get to Omaha?
DAVE HEEKE: We just want the wind to blow out. No, in all seriousness, we're very pleased with the performance of the ball. And we think that it's been an excellent modification that's helped. Our coaches have all given positive feedback. The interesting thing is our pitchers across the country enjoy the ball, have spoke highly of it. The ball seems to be carrying a little bit more. Our home run production is up slightly. At the same time, our strikeouts are up. So again we hope that it produces really good games. But I think we found -- we feel like we've found a good spot for it. And we think that it will lead to good results. You've still got to pitch it. You've still got to hit it. And the committee is pleased with the direction. We need to continue to study this, not forever, but we need to take all of the results into consideration and then at the conclusion of the year we'll keep looking at it. But right now the trend has been it's performing well.

Q. My question is about Bradley. Feels like other than the RPI they didn't really have anything especially loud. I think they had a sub-.500 in their conference, if I recall right. What was it about them if there was anything other than the RPI for Bradley that kind of put them in the field for you guys?
DAVE HEEKE: Well, clearly their RPI was very strong. And it was significantly strong. So it puts them in a category that brought a lot of attention to them. They did beat Iowa twice. They were third in their conference. They split with Dallas Baptist. We felt like they were a very good ballclub and had 24 road wins. They went to their conference championship game. So they had wins against top-50 teams. So they were a team we felt that was very worthy of that kind of consideration. We talked about their conference record. We talked about a number of things. But at the end of the day thought they were very much a team that should be in the field.

Q. And kind of broader on the RPI, how did you guys, Oregon and Clemson are teams that jump out as teams that are lower RPIs than you guys have typically taken in past years. So how did you guys maybe apply it with those teams and maybe how did you guys evaluate in general this year?
DAVE HEEKE: Again, I've said this a number of times. The RPI is really essentially, we force rank teams. It's a tremendous tool that allows us to get some real benchmark data organized and then ranking those teams with that. Kind of evaluating their strength of schedules, how they've done with those teams, what their wins have produced for them. And it gives us that metric. We think it's a good one that you begin to classify teams in different categories. But let's be very careful when we say someone's at an RP I of -- there can be large swings in the RPI that are, although they seem large, those teams are relatively close. That's why we have to dissect those teams. We have to look at their body of work throughout the entire season. We rely on the regional committees and those chairs to come forward and talk about the rankings and how the people in their region have talked about those teams, and then we begin to evaluate those cross-regionally in the room here. So, again, it's one of the powerful tools we have. But it's not a tool that we use to ultimately select someone. It allows us to get them in categories we think and then to take a closer look.

Q. I know you say you guys don't keep a tally of how many teams from each conference get in. But the Big Ten did set a record for itself of five getting in. I was wondering what you or the committee kind of thinks of kind of the rise of the Big Ten?
DAVE HEEKE: I think it was an excellent year for the Big Ten. The Big Ten had a number of, again, very quality teams. It was clearly evident. And it was a good year for the Big Ten. No doubt about that. Lots of conversations about the teams who both went into the tournament and those who might have just missed. They were certainly strong and under consideration and it was a very good year for those teams.

Q. I know you mentioned some teams that were in the mix for national seeds. I was kind of curious, Missouri State, I can understand. TCU, I'm a little interested to know what differentiated TCU from A&M and Vandy. The reason I ask that, if you go down the list and look at RPI, top 25, top 50, top 100 A&M, A&M, for instance, A&M is plus-3 in top 25, plus-7 in top-50, plus-7 in top-100 in wins. Vandy is plus-2, plus-7, plus-13 in a significantly tougher league. I'm just kind of curious how TCU differentiated itself from two teams that, really, you kind of clearly see they have a much better resumé?
DAVE HEEKE: As we talked about, Kendall, there were several teams under consideration there. And certainly Texas A&M and Florida State and Vandy, Dallas Baptist were all teams we were talking about. We sat and watched that Vanderbilt game last night. Lots of conversation. Again, Vanderbilt had a fantastic year and was really playing well later in the year. But we tried to slot those teams in. TCU had been a very strong team for the majority of the year. They beat UCLA. They split with Dallas Baptist. They won a series with Arizona State. They sweep Texas who is now in the field. They did beat Vanderbilt at a neutral site game. So you're, right, there are a lot of metrics and we line those teams up side by side and do the very best we can to pick that. Ultimately the committee votes and that vote inserted TCU as our number seven seed.

Q. Looking at TCU, this is a team that, looking at their regular season resumé in conference, did conference strength come up here with TCU because TCU has no wins versus a team with RPI lower than 77 in conference?
DAVE HEEKE: It did. Again, don't mean to keep going back to it. That certainly was one of the points and one of the things we talked about on both sides, looking at the conference performance. Vandy had a great year. They won their division. They went to their conference championship. They did all the things that they needed to do. But we did think that TCU had an excellent year and played a tremendous schedule. It was a good year for them.

Q. Would you be willing to say who was your ninth on the list there?
DAVE HEEKE: I don't know if I can say -- I'd have to go back and try to recreate votes. But, again, all of those teams, when you say Texas A&M, Florida State, Vandy and Dallas Baptist, they were all in that conversation. I think there's no question that they were all very, very close, and I think a case can be made for every one of them that you can say, hey, this is why, this is why they need to be in there. We continue to go back and look at rankings and try to look at how teams perform through the year.

Q. I had a question about the RPI. Kind of an interesting year for the RPI with several RPI teams taking higher in the 50s. But also you had one who finished second in Dallas Baptist. Could you go into some of the deliberations on Dallas Baptist, how a team with the top RPI like that, they were number one for much of the year, the discussions on them. And, number two, overall RPI not being a national seed?
DAVE HEEKE: Well, certainly. Again the RPI is that tool. It begins to rank people to a degree. We need to be careful to look at all factors. Dallas Baptist was talked about a great deal. Now, let's remember they finished second in the regular season in their conference. They didn't win nor make the championship of their conference tournament. And that begins to sway things just a little bit. But at the same time, I do believe, as I said, I think earlier, this is becoming more challenging every year that I'm involved. Programs and teams look to the RPI and how they can improve their positioning, what they need to do, how they would schedule. They've paid attention and that is bringing those lines closer together. There's less separation between teams and we do have some RPIs that maybe trend one way or the other. That's great. It puts us in a category but then we've got to dissect that with those teams that are in that grouping for Dallas Baptist in a national seed and say, okay, now let's look at everything. Let's really drill down on this beyond, on what we're doing. So that's where we went with Dallas Baptist. A very deserving 1 seed. We just did not think that they were in a position where they were going to be a national seed. Missouri State comes in and they lost two out of three at Missouri State. So some things started to trend against them a little bit on that specific piece.

Q. One follow-up, do you think that teams are getting a little smarter and maybe trying to game the RPI a little bit?
DAVE HEEKE: I don't know if gaming is the right term. Again, what I think our coaches and our programs are doing is saying, are listening to what happens with the RPI if you schedule, you schedule quality opponents, opponents who are successful and have winning records. Those things begin to move your RPI needle, and there's nothing wrong with trying to do what benefits your programs the most. I wouldn't call it gaming or rigging. I think it's just there's a mathematical formula and people are paying attention to that. We've asked them to do that. We think scheduling and playing quality games are important against teams who win games. That's what gets you your most points in the RPI.

Q. My question is geography and the role it plays versus the other factors. As many people pointed out there's no regional and the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic region, and it's certainly hypothetical or possible that if the two big West hosts had performed a little more sub-par down the stretch you could have had UCLA as your only host out west. Would the committee ever go to the steps of having a West Coast team host but be the 2 seed? That used to happen a lot more years ago. Would it be more of a headache for the committee to have only one West Coast site? Or would it be more of a headache to basically have to ship a Coastal Carolina or someone out there that would have deserved a host? I have a follow-up after that. If you could comment about how you guys evaluate geography and the role it plays and whether it trumps factors certain times?
DAVE HEEKE: Again, we would ultimately like our sports to be balanced throughout. But it's based first and foremost on performance. That drives where we're headed with hosts and sites. So we need to again first focus on that. Again, traditionally you say that's been done in the past. And you're right. And some of that was predicated by facilities that were not, or programs that were not fully committed, and we did not have hosting opportunities. I think we're blessed with better facilities than ever, options to go to parks nearby that are outstanding facilities for baseball. So that's allowed people to be in the hosting game to a higher level. And we think that's a good thing. So right now we want to reward those teams that we designate as 1 seeds for hosting opportunities. We're sensitive. We understand travel is hard and going across time zones. We try to balance that out the best we can. But, again, we won't allow that to change our mind based on performance and our selection.

Q. You would have been prepared to have only one on the west if only one team out west was deserving of those 16 sites?
DAVE HEEKE: Certainly. Again, we don't have a tally board that we say we must fill this box. We just look at it and when they're determined and they meet the hosting requirements and measures, then we're going to award a host to those schools.

Q. I also followed it very closely the NCAA softball tournament. And as you know they do 16 seeds in that event. And I did ask this last year but it's always worth revisiting to see if the committee has any thoughts on that. Because obviously you have Florida and Florida State paired together and some of it gets redundant. We used to have Clemson and South Carolina pretty regularly. Again, a hypothetical you could have had UC Santa Barbara as the clear, quote/unquote, No. 9 team, but they would have been paired with the No. 1 UCLA just out of geography. Again that's a hypothetical. So you're in that hypothetical penalizing No. 1 in trying to get to Omaha by them having to play the de facto No. 9. Is there any thought of moving to a 16 seeds or do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in the committee's mind?
DAVE HEEKE: Right now the committee has not really taken that issue on. There has been some conversation, but we have not had serious deliberations about changing our ranking system and doing all 16. We stay with that. Again, there is some regional challenges to it. But for right now we're staying with the 1 through 8 and then we stay right with that.

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