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June 17, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Ron, this is your first year as the grand poobah, as Randy called you last night. Give us an overview of the tournament and college baseball.
RON PRETTYMAN: In my career I've been called a lot of things, but grand poobah hasn't happened very often. Athletics director for 33 years prior to coming to the NCAA. It's been a great career. And it's something I've loved in working with student-athletes and quality coaches and now I've got the dream job of a lifetime of working with the NCAA championship. So I'm very excited to be here.
I have the unique moniker of having been here as the parent of a player who won a national championship, as the parent of a coach who was here last year with Cal State Fullerton. Been here the last two years as a committee member of the baseball committee and now in this capacity.
So I'm really blessed and fortunate and I've got a wonderful staff at the NCAA that helps keep me prepared and puts in so many hours behind the scenes to make this a spectacular event. So welcome. Thank you all for what you do to promote our great game of college baseball. We'll take questions in a few minutes.
THE MODERATOR: Joel is the head of the Division I Baseball Committee. Give us an overview and a welcome.
JOEL ERDMANN: Thank you. My name is Joel Erdmann. I'm athletic director at the University of South Alabama. This is my fourth year on the Division I Baseball Committee, and this past year I had the privilege to act as its chair. And I would just like to, on behalf of the entire committee, express our appreciation of covering the great game of college baseball and specifically getting us to this point that's about to happen.
And I believe it's something we can be very proud of with the field of 64 and the process of selecting the teams was rigorous, as it always is. And in and throughout that process there are some decision-making points that slow down, and they're not always the easiest.
But I believe truly that all ten committee members sleep well at night because the decisions were made with fairness and objectivity in mind and hoping to create a memorable and great experience for our teams, our student-athletes, our coaches and our fans.
So we appreciate you all being here.
CRAIG KEILITZ: I'm Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. Just finishing up my second year, and pleased to be here. This is my favorite time of the year and favorite event, of course. I've been coming to this for a while. Haven't made as many -- probably made ten College World Series, but I started coming -- it's closest to 40 years now. I think I was eight years old when I traveled here for my first time with my father, and seen a lot of changes. So it keeps getting bigger and better every year, and I'm excited to be here once again.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Craig or any of the gentlemen up there, what's the status of the potential draft for baseball for Omaha in the future?
CRAIG KEILITZ: I've been very fortunate to work with people that really want to do well by our game, and certainly these two gentleman up here and Division I Baseball Committee. But we've talked about it for a couple years and talked to Major League Baseball about it. Major League Baseball would very much like to move their draft here.
I personally think it could be a great move for us if we can do it the right way. So we're going through the process right now, discussing how the best way to handle it for our championship.
Certainly nothing is going to overshadow the College Baseball World Series, and we wanted to only enhance it. We're working through the timeframe, the dates and times how it would work out. Certainly have to be over before the first pitch is thrown on that Saturday.
This year at our ABCA national convention in Anaheim we'll be holding meetings in our Division I business meeting in particular talking about how it would affect our game, see if there's interest to support it. Because we certainly don't want to host it here if our coaches aren't interested in attending it.
So having our coaches with first-, second-, third-round young men being drafted or projected to be drafted, be a part of that and really tie our games together, Major League Baseball, college baseball and all the way through down to Little League I think is very important.
I'm excited about the prospect, but it has to be handled well. It has to be done first class. It has to be done in the best interests of what we're doing with amateur baseball first and foremost. But thank you for that question.
Q. How do you do that when some coaches are saying we don't want the draft anywhere near the College World Series or even the postseason?
CRAIG KEILITZ: I don't know if I've got a great answer for you other than we'll talk it out and find out what the problems are or what their concerns would be. So I think we take it through systematically what it would look like, what the time frames would be, the effect that it would have on that coach, and, quite frankly, the coach wouldn't have to show up, if they chose not to.
But I think until we lay it all out and hear all discussions and all points of view, we just don't know if it's in our best interests.
Q. Joel, when you look back at I guess the field that you constructed and the way it's performed, obviously unprecedented this year was I think seven SEC hosts, was it, six ACC hosts, and you look up and there's one from each in Omaha, are you surprised with the way it turned out and how do you respond to the inevitable critics, I guess?
JOEL ERDMANN: It's a great question. And when you look at the upper seeds and the hosts, you do so recognizing a full body of work. And I believe in retrospect, looking at what has happened the past two weeks has been great stories and have been teams that are not No. 1 seeds, that have had to travel a good distance back to back weekends under very competitive circumstances in front of a hostile crowd and made some great memories. And they're here today.
And so I think something that that speaks to is the depth of the talent in the game of college baseball, where you have teams that have the ability to beat anybody anywhere at any time.
And I think that's something that makes this game more magical every year is it seems over a period of time what might be considered power and historical programs that have achieved great things are sometimes overcome by emerging programs that are starting to make their own thumbprint and their own footprint.
So, yes, there were some upsets, and looking at the bracket might raise some eyebrows in how it panned out, but I think another way to look at it is it's great for the game.
Q. I guess this is for Joel, but, Ron, since you were on the committee in the past, you could maybe address this. How much do you guys try to avoid the matchups that are repeated in Super Regionals? I know regions and geography dictates a lot of that. But does that come up in, say, 2017 if it was Florida and Florida State could match up in the Super Regional or South Carolina and Clemson? These matchups that happen a lot, do you see it as good because you're building up rivalries? Do you see it as something you try to avoid? Is there a threshold of like, oh, they've done it three times in five years, that's too much? How do you address those matchups that seem to happen with some regularity in the current format?
JOEL ERDMANN: Yes, I will say this, the committee is aware of those matchups. And there is the positive side of what I call regionality and those traditional rivals that are not too far from each other. It allows for a great crowd and energy-filled stadiums that draws national attention.
But that being said, we're also sensitive to the redundancy of matchups over and over again. So we do follow general guidelines on once those pairs have seen each other in back-to-back years, we won't do it for a third unless there's extenuating circumstances out of our control.
So in a way we see that as a very beneficial thing, and in a way we understand that change might be needed when change is worthy.
RON PRETTYMAN: I think Joel explained our guiding principles very well. And we are very cognizant of those repeat matchups. And it's something that we are aware of and make every effort to not allow happen for a third year in a row.
Q. A couple of weeks ago there was a prominent national columnist, Dan Wetzel, wrote about coaching salaries in college baseball and used the rise in salaries and increase in resources sort of as an example of what's wrong with college athletics because of the scholarship limits in college baseball. How do you feel about where the scholarship limit is now and as resources grow in college baseball, as money continues to move into the sport, is there any sense that that number could change over time?
CRAIG KEILITZ: I'll tell you, quite frankly, I'd love to see that 11.7 rise. And you ask yourself how many young men are playing out there in front of 30,000 people that are either on a half a ride or 25 percent or walk-ons, and that doesn't happen in the other championships that are making millions of dollars. So those are questions I think we need to ask ourselves. But there's a lot of hurdles for that. So, quite frankly, I'd love to see the scholarships go up.
As far as the pay with the coaches, I love the society we live in. It's capitalist and they make what someone thinks they're worth. And so I see the instability in a lot of their jobs and with pay comes more instability.
So I think our coaches understand that and relish that and they understand the pressure that goes along with it. But I like to see them getting paid more, and I think they deserve it. But maybe those things go hand in hand.
JOEL ERDMANN: I would agree with the scholarships, personally, from a personal point of view, anytime we can increase athletic -- our financial assistance to students, I don't think many people would be against that.
However, that topic is an isolated manner is easy to address but in a broader manner I think that would have ripple effects that would need to be examined from an administrative and department-wide and a national point of view.
So as Craig said, it's not that easy of a thing to proceed with, but I think the thought is very positive. And I also agree with the coaches' salaries, the market bears what it bears, and these coaches work very hard and earn it and what they bring to the university and a campus and a community's life has value to it. And that being said, it is a different day also.
Q. Ron, could you address it specifically, the idea that you've got kids out there playing on less than 50 percent of a scholarship in front of big TV audiences?
RON PRETTYMAN: I think there's another way to look at it, and a part of that is I believe that one of the reasons that we have such great parity in the great sport of college baseball is because there's a lot of talent out there that's being disseminated across a whole lot of schools.
And I think it's no mistake that we've got it seemingly every year have new teams in the College World Series, because we've got great coaches that are working hard at recruiting, developing kids, developing talent. And while certainly we love to see all of our student-athletes get more money and go on and help them with their education, I believe that that's been a real effect of adding to the parity of our game.
So while I certainly see from an athletics director perspective and building a program perspective it would be great to have more money, I think there's a positive effect of having that scholarship limitation.
Q. I guess it goes for Craig and Joel and Ron, in order like that, but last year there was a serious problem where there were some pitching coaches, not all of them, but some that decided to utilize a stall tactic with no runners -- with runners on base, they could take as much time as they want with runners not on base, they only have 20 seconds in between pitches to throw the ball. But, anyway, some of these coaches were taking upwards of a minute between pitches and the time went up tremendously, averaged almost three hours and 19 seconds for -- three hours and 19 minutes for games last year, which is 26 minutes more than four years ago. And when you look at what happened in softball where the games are substantially lower in time, they had a 34 percent viewership in their final three games than they did the College World Series, which is shocking to many. What's being done about this and are you monitoring the situation with that stall tactic?
CRAIG KEILITZ: I'm not familiar with the stall tactic. I think we all have to be cognizant to look at the length of our game for the simple fact that if we can't hold their interest for that long, then we could have less viewers and so forth and on a slippery slope.
But I know coaches talk about it. I know administrators talk about it. I don't know the easy answer for it. But those are things that we discuss at the coaching level, at least, on how we could always continue to improve our game. And that is one of 20 different issues that we look at in improving our game. I don't know if that's a great answer for you, but that's where we stand at this time, and we'll continue to talk about it in Anaheim next January.
JOEL ERDMANN: As a committee, we did discuss that topic the past 12 months and we are monitoring it, length of games is being monitored, pace of play, and I think if it could be managed organically where coaches and the pace of play is modified while keeping strategy in the game, I think there's a fine line there. A happy medium. I think that would be best.
But I do understand the legitimacy of length of time, and we live in a society that sometimes doesn't pay attention as long as it used to. And we can't ignore that.
RON PRETTYMAN: It is on the radar of the Baseball Rules Committee, which is different than the Baseball Championship Committee, and there's nobody here to talk about where they are in that process at this point, but I will tell you that our goal is certainly to make the game in venue and on television very viewable and manageable, and I think it's something that we're all aware of and concerned about and it's getting high level of discussion.
Q. Question for everybody on the dais, a little follow-up to what John was talking about, about redundancy maybe and some of the Regionals are Supers of teams matching up. I know there were a couple of articles, the Omaha World Herald, before the Super started, about the thoughts of rebracketing or re-seeding after the Super Regionals to get to Omaha, the eight teams, or a different way of seeding in the Supers. Has there been any discussion about that, or is it logistically too kind of hard to do once you -- Joel picked the 64 and set up the initial brackets for the 16 and the 4 and advancing from that point on?
JOEL ERDMANN: Thank you. The committee did have significant conversation and discussion about the process this past November. And long story short, we believe the current system lends a certain amount of flexibility that allows us, the committee, to manage the Regional nature of how we do things and manage conference matchups through the 1 seeds, 1 through 16, to where they will not meet each other. And without that flexibility, that would become an actual situation.
So I think the long story short is, yes, there has been discussion about that, but the conclusion was let's stay with what we're doing right now.
RON PRETTYMAN: The Regional is a direct reflection of what we do in the first rounds of the College World Series. And one of the efforts is to make sure that the student-athletes are prepared and have that level of experience knowing what they're getting into, playing potentially back-to-back games, so on and so forth.
And then the Super Regionals are a direct reflection of the championship round. So we feel if a team gets that far they will have had, from a coaching perspective, also from a student-athlete perspective, that level of experience of knowing exactly what they're going to be facing when they get to the College World Series.
Q. The home run is making a comeback. Could you talk about how the balance is? I think Coastal Carolina has 90-plus this year. So how it's given the pitchers and hitters a pretty big shake there?
CRAIG KEILITZ: They're certainly up. You look at the stats. We have them there in front of you, but the home runs are up, and I think our fans like it. The kids certainly like it.
The brand of baseball, I think, is getting stronger as the fielding percentage is higher than it's ever been and we're seeing the strikeouts. So the flat-seam baseball certainly seems to be doing what we all hoped it would do.
I don't think any of us realized how much the pitchers would like it. So I think it's been a win-win all the way around. So I'm excited about it because I think our fans are.
JOEL ERDMANN: Agree. I think when you modify the tools or the parameters of a game, sometimes the pendulum goes a little bit too far one way. So I think tweaking the baseball has brought the pendulum back to a comfortable place where there's a little bit more firepower, if you will, but at the same time you're seeing, as said, a clean game, where there are less errors and more strikeouts. So I think there's a little bit for every fan there is out there.
RON PRETTYMAN: You know, I was on the committee, as Joel was, when the flat-seam baseball came along. And there was some hesitation, as Craig mentioned earlier, about how it would impact pitching, would the ball break as much so on and so forth. And I think we have been extremely pleased with the results that we've seen without having to make major modifications to the ballpark.
I think we've been excited about -- we've got really good people doing good work at the NCAA, for one thing, with our stats people helping us monitor this kind of stuff. I think we've been transparent putting out that kind of information.
And the other thing is working on these committees, the Rules Committee and the Baseball Committee, we have a whole lot of experts making good decisions.
And I think that it's exciting that the fact that we are willing and able to say, hey, something needs to be fixed, let's go fix it. And I think we've done that in the last couple of years and the baseball is a great example of that.
Q. Craig, there was a lot of anxiety last year entering this event about the ball and will it translate here. Is your curiosity level much different now than it was 365 days ago?
CRAIG KEILITZ: Well, I think the simple answer is possibly. But that was just one year. Watching back at batting practice, that's a lot different than the games. The ball is flying out. So I think if you square the ball up, it's going to go out.
So we'll see how it goes this year, but I imagine us hitting -- I think we had 17 last year, if I'm not mistaken. I think we'd hit somewhere around there. Now the pitching is tremendous as it was last year, we'll see how that plays into it as well.
RON PRETTYMAN: I've got to tell you an answer to that question as well, Craig. I had a press conference Wednesday with some media, and somebody seriously asked me the question had we thought about moving the fences out, because we've had such offensive output. And I said let's give it some time before we decide to change the yard.
CRAIG KEILITZ: If I could throw one more thing in there, whenever you make a change of this magnitude, usually you have pros and cons. I've not heard one complaint from around the country about the baseball. That's simply amazing to me because whenever you change something, you're going to have some people upset. Not a single complaint about that.
JOEL ERDMANN: I'll concur with that. I've received no negative feedback over the past 12 months.
Q. Craig, at ABCA in Nashville, there was some talk about legislation involving adding another assistant coach to coaching staffs and addressing the 27-player limit. What progress has been made with that legislation and is there other legislation in the works?
CRAIG KEILITZ: There's a lot of talk about it. We had four pieces of legislation. That was the dropping of the minimum 25 percent, which a very small percentage of coaches are in favor of that versus against. It's about 54 percent of our coaches are in favor of that. So that's going to be very tough to move. Then the 27 is slightly higher up, taking coaches that are interested in.
So those are going to be two pieces of tough legislation to move just because the people that are for it and against it and so forth.
To answer your question, right now we're in the process. We have to have all of our pieces of legislation into the NCAA prior to September 1st. The only people that can submit pieces of legislation are institutions and/or conferences. So we're in the discussion period with numerous conferences trying to figure that out.
We've got a lot of things in the works or a lot of ADs have in the works, cost of attendance, how that's coming and coming up with money and TV and so forth. So sometimes all the issues that I have before them is not first on their priority. So we'll see how it breaks down prior to September 1st.
Q. Maybe you do this every year, but seemed like after the field of 64 was announced we heard from several coaches and people who were maybe concerned about the role of the Regional Advisory Committees and if you've got a rival coach who is offering opinions about your team that may or may not affect whether you get in, is that really fair. How do you guys respond to that criticism, and is there any thought about making the Regional Advisory Committee rankings public, like in some other sports?
JOEL ERDMANN: It's a tremendous question. And let me begin by this: The committee, the Baseball Committee, does take the input of the Regional Advisory Committee very seriously. And it is within the matrix, if you will, of decision-making factors.
I guess one way of looking at that is that each conference has the ability to appoint a coach to represent that conference on that Regional committee. And there's an assumption of professionalism, an assumption of unbiased objectivity. And I know sometimes in the general public you may have people that believe or don't believe that, but I think you've got to believe in the system that those people that are volunteering their time in a very busy time of the year for them are being unbiased and objective.
And we have never discussed the presentation of Regional input publicly. But I would think that's something that we could discuss in the future.
Q. You're talking about not getting any pushback, negative pushback on the ball over the past two years. Have you gotten anything on the RACs? Because we have and I'm sure Aaron has. That seems like that was a bone of contention in this year's selection?
JOEL ERDMANN: I did get some feedback on that after the selections from some fans and supporters from around the country that questioned that. The amount of it is hard to measure in comparison to the amount that are silent. I'm not sure how to gauge what's significant and what isn't. But it was a topic, it was.
Q. From coaches of those institutions themselves, that they weren't selected?
JOEL ERDMANN: I did not receive any. I received some from the fan base.
RON PRETTYMAN: I will also tell you that the Regional Advisory Committee and the representative of the region on our committee is not the end-all. It would be -- I think you guys would be really interested in how deep we scrub, and we've had the opportunity to go in and realize when we go head to head and get down deep into the nitty-gritty that maybe the Regional Advisory Committee didn't have it in line, and we've reordered those things. We don't just go in the room and say where did your region come in and plug people in. We really scrub it hard.
So I couldn't be more pleased with the efforts and the fairness that I've seen from our Baseball Committee. And that's just a part of the process, is that deep scrubbing of making sure we get the best 64 teams in this tournament.
Q. Has there been any discussion or just your opinions as well on the idea of maybe going to kind of a series format throughout the postseason, because there's a couple of situations over the weekend where guys were brought back on short rest, were throwing a lot, and there's some concerns with that, and also the idea we talked about growing the game, going to the three format would allow you to put Regionals or series in in areas that maybe wouldn't get an actual Regional?
CRAIG KEILITZ: We have not discussed that nationally with our Division I business meetings. I think that's something that we would like to discuss. The one thing I have hesitancy with is discussing things and taking up their time at that divisional meeting that maybe doesn't have much of a reality in the near future. So I think the other two gentlemen can answer that better than I can.
JOEL ERDMANN: It's not been a topic to date, but I will say this, it has come up over the past couple of days. So we'll see if that moves to consideration or discussion in the future.
RON PRETTYMAN: Yeah, I think it's worth talking about. We have had certainly some concerns expressed but very minimal pushback on the way we're doing it now, and we would be -- we would certainly be open to continuing to discuss further.
Q. Is there any recruiting stuff coming down the pipes? Just a personal editorial comment, I worry about coaches, their salaries are going up, but I worry about quality of life. They're recruiting four grades at once, and it's tough. And certainly compensation is going with that, but, man, I just worry about these guys. So I am just wondering what's on the forefront or what discussions are being had regarding recruiting, the format of it?
CRAIG KEILITZ: Two pieces of legislation were adopted to go into effect on August 1st, 2016, for this upcoming year, and that is quiet periods allowing coaches -- there was just interpretation that allows coaches to go on the road to work offsite camps and clinics during quiet periods, and that's been eliminated.
So that will get a lot of the coaches off the road for a considerable amount of time, close to three months. And the evaluation period during the summer has been moved back by one week to extend the quiet period, and that will be the end of August.
Those are two pieces of meaningful legislation I think will assist coaches to spend more time with their own families and certainly the kids on campus and slow that recruiting piece down.
But I think I know where you're going with that about ninth graders and tenth graders accepting or getting verbals. I don't know how that's going to slow down, to tell you the truth, and I don't think there's any good piece out there right now that could slow that down.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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