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May 28, 2018

Ray Tanner

Omaha, Nebraska

THE MODERATOR: Welcome, thank you for joining us today. I'm going to turn it over to the chair of the division one baseball committee and the athletic director at the University of South Carolina, Ray Tanner, to give us an opening statement and then we'll ask for questions.

RAY TANNER: Just to open up, I'd like to thank a moment to thank the ten-member committee that traveled to Indianapolis since Friday to put together the 64-team field we have been working on it for quite a while.

We feel like that we have scrubbed it as good as we possibly can. There's been so much attention paid to the minute details and while might not be perfect, we did our best to put a strong 64-team field together.

Special thanks to Jeff and J.D. and Chad and Kristen and Randy and all the people at the NCAA who assisted us, and Colin, as well, for everyone who assisted us to get the data and metrics that we needed to do all the comparisons and put everything together to make the best decisions possible.

So we are excited about the opportunity to begin baseball on the field beginning Friday.

Q. UCF was one of the last four teams out of the field. How much discussion was had regarding UCF's case and what were factors that kept them out of the field?
RAY TANNER: Lots of discussion. UCF was a team that we knew had a very good season, won a lot of games. We scrubbed them time and time again, did a lot of comparisons, sheet comparisons and came back to them.

We invested a lot of time in that conference that was such a good conference. I think a fifth-place finish was maybe a factor that kept them out, although they were very close to being in the field.

Q. Interested how the committee kind of took on Mississippi State's resumé given they were 9-1 against Top 10 teams but more or less .500 against everyone else and they could have been better on the road. How did the committee kind of tackle Mississippi State's resumé and what made the committee make them a 2-seed?
RAY TANNER: Mississippi State is a team that finished very, very strong. They have a good program. They had a transition during the season that was certainly taken into account, but they won games on the field, and the No. 1 conference in America, which he can check which counted in this case for what they did. So the resumé, the metrics, were very good.

We thought that they were one of the better teams. There were ten teams that made the field out of the Southeastern Conference and Mississippi State is a very strong candidate to win games when they start play.

Q. On the selection show, you mentioned conference records and sub-.500 conference records mattering maybe more to you guys than previous committees. Some conferences are easier to have success than others. Could you discuss the balance between conference record and the strength of conference, and some of the discussions that led to the decisions you guys made?
RAY TANNER: Well, I don't know that I necessarily agree with the way you -- the statement that you made. I'll tell you that this committee, while all selection committees at the NCAA level and championships, you're trying to get the best teams in. You're also trying to reward teams that did well with an entire body of work. The regular season finish, conference championships, whether they were double winners or whatever their resumé seems to be.

Some conferences are better than others but it still shows up. Some teams get more teams in than other teams, and being .500 or close to .500 in one conference does not necessarily get you into the NCAA Tournament.

But in a power five conference or a good one, like the SEC, the ACC, the Big 12, the Pac 12; when you're in a really good conference, I think the resumé is much stronger and it does merit that your program is one of the better ones in the country.

So there is -- there is, I guess, a trend with this committee, this current committee, that sub-.500 teams, we pay attention to. A couple years ago, there were four or five. Last year there were zero teams in the field that were under .500. This year, there was one team that's a sub-.500 conference versus conference.

I think that is a trend that's getting a lot of attention. Some people disagree with that. Some people agree. But that's where we are. It's a ten-member committee. I get one vote. I'm chairing it, but I get one vote, and this is where we landed at the end of the day.

Q. Along those same lines, how do you balance that between northeastern -- Kentucky has got to be wondering how they would finish. Did you have that discussion and how did that play out?
RAY TANNER: That discussion is very difficult to have. I mean, that's -- you play in a different conference, different areas of the country. We know Kentucky has a very good team as it stands. They were 13-17 in the regular season. Going to the SEC tournament, they had a chance to enhance their resumé. They were unable to do that.

Did it all come down to the SEC tournament? No, it didn't, but they were four games under, and that's a fact that they were tied for tenth in overall standings in the SEC. They certainly could beat a lot of teams, you know that. Teams in the a SEC, ACC, Pac 12, Big 12, had a really good year. You can beat a lot of other teams.

You know, I guess softball gets everybody in. We didn't get everybody in from the Southeastern Conference, but Kentucky has a good team but the sub-.500, the four games under, they had a really, really strong metric package. They won five series. They lost a couple years against the bottom teams in the SEC.

So there were some things that weren't perfect, but the sub-.500 stood out to the committee, and you know, had it been a game or two, it might not have made much difference but it ended up being in total four in the regular season and five if you include the tournament.

Q. I had a question about process a little bit. First of all, I want to ask you about how you guys value weekend series, because we all know that college baseball is set up to win weekend series, and you know, you mentioned Kentucky won five series against regional teams this year and Northeastern didn't win any. Northeastern lost series against the other two and won against teams outside the Top-100. How much emphasis do you put just generally speaking on a weekend series?
RAY TANNER: Well, there's emphasis put on your overall body of work, and you know, northeastern didn't have the same opportunities or the same body of work maybe comparing them to an ACC or an SEC team but they won the regular season and they played in the conference championship.

If you look at them stand-alone, they had a really good year, and that's, that, became a factor, and then you have to look at -- we go back to Kentucky again, they were sub-.500. Do you compare those teams head-to-head? Well, you can take a look at it that way but you take a look at where they finished in their leagues and what's important, what are your factors what me takes are you using? Committees are different.

You have things in your toolbox with the RPI, the 1-25, 26-50 and you can go on and on, and top strength of schedule, non-conference strength of schedule. You can build this thing until it makes you dizzy a little bit. It can be difficult.

But the sub-.500, we go back to Kentucky, that's a major issue as to why they were left out of the tournament. I will elaborate for just a second. Talk about weekend series: North Carolina only lost two series the entire year. They only lost two, and Connecticut lost four. They were very close to maybe being a national host, Connecticut. NC State had the slight edge, a little better nonconference slate, and NC State's two conferences losses were to Florida State and North Carolina, and Connecticut 's four were a little bit different.

So sometimes you really do split hairs. There's a lot of good college baseball teams, and it's sometimes hard when you get down to the very end and trying to make a decision whether it's the seed or whether it's somebody getting into the field.

Q. Curious how you guys evaluate conference standings and conference regular season championships in this era of mega- conferences where you have 14 teams and unbalanced schedules and not everybody's conference strength of schedule is the same. How much do you take that into consideration?
RAY TANNER: That's a factor. We look at who you played, who you didn't play, what the opportunities were, would your conference record possibly have gone up, would it possibly have gone down. I can't speak to all the conferences, but I know the Southeastern Conference, you missed three on the other side.

I understand it from that viewpoint, and you know, it's like North Carolina and Clemson didn't play. That was something we took a look at. Whether it would have gone one way or another, you know, you take a look at things. It does factor into it.

You know, Florida State ended up finishing really strong. They were fourth place in their division, but they played the five best teams above them, and you know, they did really well and they were rewarded for that.

Q. I was wondering, they had the worst winter up north than they have had in the past 20 years. Did it give the northern teams a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt than normal years, and kind of secondly to that, was UCONN not getting a home regional, did it come down to the championship game against east Carolina in their conference tournament?
RAY TANNER: To answer the first part of your question, yes, it was addressed about some weather situations where teams missed four, five, six games. That was not a factor. That was not held against them. It happened all over the country, not just in the northeast, so that was an issue.

Had UCONN won the championship, would that have given them a national seed? Not necessarily. Certainly would have enhanced maybe the resumé to an extent, but as I said I compare them to NC State. NC State lost two series all year; they lost four. NC State's nonconference record was a little bit better than UCONN's. It was close. They certainly were in the conversation.

Q. General question, the process, you have been involved with it for a while. Is it getting harder? How much harder is it get to go pick these 64 teams?
RAY TANNER: I think that it's getting harder; that's the good news. The good news is the commitment in college baseball across the country may be better than ever. The investment that's being made on campuses is probably better with presidents and athletic directors than ever before. Stadiums are being built. Baseball is important to programs and then what you see on the field, the product is better.

It's a lot of teams that can play really good baseball. It's not easy to get to the 64. I think it might have been years ago, that it was somewhat easier, but it's not easy now. I think that speaks to the value of our game right now and how good it is, and certainly the popularity of what goes on in Omaha is second to none. I just heard our NCAA social media director speak about what's trending across America, and college baseball is trending. I think that's good news.

But to answer your question, it is getting harder because there's so many about teams playing this game.

Q. You mentioned on the broadcast that you have been in the coach's shoes before where you have not made it. I think a lot of coaches feel if they get in, they have a good shot to get to Omaha. I know you guys understand the gravity and the weight, the stakes that are involved, but how important is it to get the right teams in and to get these teams in?
RAY TANNER: This is my third year on the committee, and we do our very best to get the best teams in and give them an opportunity. It's exciting. It's post-season play. You win a regional, super regional, you end up in Omaha, which is a fabulous NCAA Championship.

I might be biased but it's one of the better experiences a student athlete can have in collegiate athletics, whether you're playing in a football Bowl game or baseball, whatever it may be, Omaha is special.

So we do our very best to get those teams in. There's excitement. There's opportunities. There will be upsets, but the team that wins is not going to think it's an upset. They are a quality team. We're getting quality teams into the field. They got there by earning it, whether they are an at-large selection or whether they won the conference championship. I'm looking forward to Friday where baseball starts on the field and games are decided by the players.

Q. Looking at the bracket, was there any rhyme or reason why the SEC national seeds are all one side of the bracket now? And all the West Coast teams are on one side of the bracket. Is there a rhyme or reason for those two things?
RAY TANNER: Not at all, and that was -- remember we seeded 1 through 16 this year. We didn't seed eight. We seeded 1 through 16. Basketball seeds 1 through 68. Our parameters are 1 through 16 and then we do columns for two, columns for three, and columns for four. It just so happened that way. I didn't even -- I had not even noticed it until we completed it, that it just happened to shake out that way.

You look at, just talking about the Nationals, the Florida State, the Clemson regional, are paired up. Is that an ideal situation? Well, probably not. People would say, oh, well, they are in the same conference. Because now we are doing seeds, you're not allowed to make those adjustments. That wouldn't be a true seeding. It just happened to fall that way. There was no rhyme or reason. It was just the luck of the draw if you will.

Q. What about the West Coast schools? Did it boil down to regionality and the travel?
RAY TANNER: Well, the regionality comes into play. I think you look at the Carolinas and there's a lot of teams driving to those sights. It makes a difference.

We do have some parameters at the NCAA level. We're not going to fly, you know, 44 teams. You fly a lot less than that. We have parameters that we have to go by. It's nothing specific but you know, we are limited to how much we can do and how much teams we can fly.

So we have to take a look at that. One day, one day, it may be one through 64 and it changes the complexion but right now it's one through 16.

Q. Texas Tech and Clemson, any idea on the thinking with Texas Tech being a higher seed than Clemson?
RAY TANNER: Well, Texas Tech, I think as you know, they were in a very good position for the majority of the year. They ended up finishing third.

When we got past the national five, from 6 through 11, it was extremely difficult. We, as you know here at NCAA, and the technology that we have with all the metrics, it was almost like you could make an argument for 11 to 6 and 6 to 11. There were factors that came into play but none of them were major.

So I can get into some specifics but I'm just telling you, it was really, really, really close. You know, somebody might have had more Top-50 wins and somebody's strength of schedule might have been different. It wasn't clear-cut. There were some factors that were so close, and the committee ended up -- the final hour, we ended up making a decision to vote a particular way, and like I said, there's nine other votes besides mine and that's the way it shook out.

Q. How clear-cut was Florida as the No. 1 seed even after their little spell they had been on here with losses in six of their last seven?
RAY TANNER: Very good question, because you know, being athletic director in the Southeastern Conference, I certainly follow what goes on, and they were incredible throughout the majority of the season and didn't finish strong.

As we were finishing up our data last week before coming to Indianapolis, I was curious to see if they were going to be a clear-cut once we got into the committee room, and they continued to be, despite not finishing the way coach O'Sullivan would have wanted them to finish. They clearly were the No. 1 seed with all the metrics considered.

I mentioned a couple minutes ago, like 6 through 11 were really, really, really tight. Florida stood alone. They stood alone at the top of the pack with all the metrics, whether you go Top-50, Top-100, whatever the metrics you want to use, they still stood alone with what they did throughout the entire season, their body of work and their strength of schedule.

Q. I just noticed that there's a couple of repeat things, and Vanderbilt and St. John's were two and three and Clemson for the second year in a row. Seemed that could have been easily avoided. It's not like St. John's is geographically close to Clemson. Did you give any consideration to that kind of thing or are there instances like Fullerton going to Stanford again? How much did you guys look at trying to avoid some of those repeat matchups?
RAY TANNER: Well, you do try to avoid them but there is legislation that you do not do it three years in a row, but it does not prohibit it from being two years in a row. I'm not sure there was a factor going into it.

I think in hindsight, you can look back and say, would we have been able to make some adjustments, and you probably could, but then you're going to re-seed the whole field or you're going to make changes. That's one of those things that I don't think that -- certainly wasn't done intentionally.

It's just the way that it fell, and had somebody noticed it immediately, it might have been different but it happened and there are a lot of repeats. Keep in mind when you're not seeding, other than 16, you can get some situations that develop more than one time.

Q. You talked about the 6 to 11 spots. How close was it, do you think, between that 8 spot and the 9 spot with Texas Tech and obviously Georgia?
RAY TANNER: It was close. You do this year-round, and you put a lot of time and effort into college baseball, which we greatly appreciate the attention you give to our sport, and you get -- as I said earlier, you get into so many metrics. Texas Tech, they were strong for so long. They end up finishing third in the League and Georgia finished second. They really had a tremendous run. They lost two in the SEC tournament, but we use tournaments to help you, not necessarily be held against you.

But then you start looking at other metrics. One is in Texas Tech's favor, one is in Georgia's favor and it gets to be really, really splitting hairs and then the committee looks at everything we have in front of us and we vote. So it's not a perfect science. We just use the data that we have before us and submit the votes.

Q. Illinois, I guess their resumé, anything -- what was the knock --
RAY TANNER: I think maybe Illinois got a lot of discussion about getting in the field. I thought the Big Ten was pretty good this year, one of the better years, Minnesota. Congratulations John Anderson for what he was able to do. Even though the RPI was a little bit high, and finishing fourth in the League, they were on the board till the very end, but the resumé wasn't quite strong enough, we didn't feel, as we went down the back stretch.

Q. What is the committee's opinion of the American Conference? And how close was UCONN to getting one of those last hosting seeds?
RAY TANNER: The American conference gets tremendous respect. You know, I think you see where East Carolina is a national seed, based on their resumé, strength of schedule, who they played, what they were able to do.

UCONN finished, I believe, third in that conference, and had a good resumé. They were in the conversation, certainly, to host. Comparing them to, say, North Carolina State, I mentioned earlier, North Carolina State won all but two series the entire season. UCONN lost four series against teams that are not in the field. North Carolina's two series were against teams that were in the field. NC State had a little better non-conference schedule than Connecticut, but Connecticut was right there as a team that could have gotten in. It was very close that they would have become a host.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us.

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