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June 16, 2017
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us for the 2017 State of Baseball press conference. We'll start with brief remarks from Ron Prettyman, then we'll move to Scott Sidwell, chair of the D-I Baseball Committee and Director of Athletics at University of San Francisco, and he'll toss it to Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association.
RON PRETTYMAN: Thank you all for being here and good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of the NCAA and our partners in Omaha, we're proud to present the 2017 College World Series. We've got great partnership with our Omaha partners, College World Series of Omaha, Incorporated, Creighton University, MECA, which is the Metropolitan Entertainment area here in town, which runs the stadium, and the city of Omaha.
As we embark on our 71st College World Series and our seventh year at TD Ameritrade, we'll also celebrate our 50th anniversary with College World Series, Incorporated. They've been great partners dealing with many of the local issues that helped make this championship great.
We have a great set of teams in the lineup this year. Could be one of the greatest years ever, with all eight teams having been here before for four or more years. The experience level, I think, is going to play a key role in this competition.
We'll have multiple student-athletes that have been selected in the first round of the Major League draft and many more in later rounds. We've issued just under 2,000 credentials to local, national, and ESPN media. That's almost as many as the Final Four in basketball. So we're getting a lot of attention right now.
On Monday, June 19th, at the 1:00 game, we'll host our 1,000th College World Series game. That's a huge milestone and shows the great interest in college basketball -- I'm sorry, college baseball, that college baseball is alive and well.
The academics of this team is impressive with a 973 APR, which is a 14 point increase over the past six years. Division I baseball has a 79 percent graduation rate, which is higher than that of the general student population.
We're excited about this year's championship. We look forward to our great event in Omaha every June. Thousands of student-athletes embark on the road to Omaha at the beginning of each season, but only a couple hundred get the chance to compete on the greatest show on dirt.
Thank you for being here today. My staff and I will be available to assist you at any time.
SCOTT SIDWELL: Certainly, on behalf of the NCAA Baseball Committee, I want to thank everybody for all the great job that you do, I know for college baseball and the great support that the folks here in Omaha have. We had a wonderful dinner the other night just to kick things off, and we were talking about the history of the College World Series and how much it's grown to what it is today, and I think it culminated in a great series we're going to see here this week.
Having an opportunity to serve on the committee for three years and seeing just how difficult it is to select a field, how difficult it is to decipher between very razor-thin margins of who's going to get in and who's not going to get in, I think speaks volumes for the game of baseball. I think we're going to see that continue to grow. We have a lot of stats, and Ron talked about those, about the growth of the game.
I think, as we sit here in the seventh year of TD Ameritrade Park, you know, ten years ago, who would have thought we'd be sitting here today with the field that we have and the growth that we've had.
So certainly a wonderful event, and looking forward to a great week.
CRAIG KEILITZ: I'm Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. It's my favorite time of year, and there's no place I'd rather be than Omaha, Nebraska, especially this time of year. I just want to say thank you to this group up here for the collaboration we have to make our great game of baseball greater every year, the way it represents college baseball. So it's an exciting time. I'm a huge fan of college baseball, of course, and I love to see the World Series.
Looking forward to answering any questions you may have today.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Let's open it up for questions.
Q. For anybody on the dais who wants to address it, the Major League draft just finished. I know there have been discussions in recent years about the draft coming out here. Major League Baseball guys talk about their interest in moving the draft to Omaha, maybe having it here. How do you guys see that, over the couple years of discussions you guys have had, what are the pros and cons of incorporating the draft as part of or like a lead-in to the College World Series? And what are some of the obstacles that have to be overcome for that to happen?
RON PRETTYMAN: I think we probably have, even on the dais, some different perspectives on this whole thing. From an NCAA perspective, the issue of amateurism certainly comes into play. It's going to be interesting on Saturday and Sunday when the announcers talk about the first round draft picks that will sign for multiple millions of dollars of bonuses, and yet we're an amateur organization.
So we have made an effort to try to keep our championship separated as much as possible, keep an amateur standing and status in the whole thing. While we certainly respect and would never deny a kid an opportunity to be in the limelight and have an opportunity to sign a professional baseball draft opportunity, the timing sometimes isn't perfect when we try to maintain our amateur status with our NCAA championship. So that's kind of the stance of the NCAA.
I know that there are others who feel like it would enhance the whole atmosphere here in Omaha, and while that certainly carries some weight, we're really committed to keeping this as an amateur event.
SCOTT SIDWELL: I think, on behalf of the students that are playing the game this week, and there are many students on the rosters that won't be drafted and many that may have secured jobs in other ways, so I think if you look at it in terms of what they go on to in their next level, into their professional lives and into the world that they're entering into, that you have to kind of take a step back and say that this event is about the college baseball and College World Series.
There's certainly the Major League draft, but there's many others that are out there competing this week that have graduated and are going to go on to great careers, and I think that's something we should all celebrate as we look at how the graduation rates have risen and how they're doing such a great job academically.
Q. I think this question probably should be directed to Scott. Curious about the issue of instant replay and whether you guys, as a baseball committee or whether the rules committee or whoever is in charge, is reviewing the way it's implemented and considering expanding it to the regional round. I'm curious why the regionals don't have replay when all those games are on TV.
SCOTT SIDWELL: I think you first have to take a step back and look at how the evolution of replay and technology. There was a time not too long ago when we didn't have the Super Regionals on TV, and now they're all on TV. You look at the regional rounds, and they're all streamed, and a lot of them are on TV themselves.
So I think, as we evolve as a sport, I think it's up to the folks that are on the baseball committee and the rules committee -- and there's a process that that goes through -- to have those discussions about how we continue to grow the game. Certainly, those discussions are ongoing, and as we see, we've made progress along the way. As technology increases and the opportunity for us on each of those campuses that host regionals and Super Regionals, I could certainly see that's something that could come in the future, but it's going to have to go through a process and be discussed.
Q. For any of you guys, obviously, pace of play has been a hot topic for baseball at every level. I know some changes have been discussed at the college level as well. What's kind of the overall sense of the pace of games this year, and have any changes been discussed potentially?
CRAIG KEILITZ: We have a pace of play committee that's put together led by Tim Corbin of Vanderbilt. So we have technology issues we're working on right now that we think greatly enhance the game.
With that said, we need to go through the rules committee, make sure it's affordable, make sure it's compatible, make sure it's able to be used by all the different schools, and make sure it's durable and so forth. So we're through that discovery phase right now that we think could -- we look back five years from now, that we're glad we put that in place.
But I don't think there's a single person that doesn't think we need to speed the game up a little bit, and that is maybe having the action a little closer together with less gaps. So those are things that we're talking about. And we from the American Baseball Coaches Association, we would like to be -- have that come from the coaches and not from administrators or the NCAA. We want to have our coaches adopt it. So we're taking a proactive stance on that and seeing if we can come up with some good alternatives that speed the game up.
RON PRETTYMAN: And along those lines, there's great collaboration with the American Baseball Coaches Association. They've done a lot of the initial legwork on that. It's certainly on our agenda on a regular basis, both with the baseball committee and the rules committee. So it's getting talked about big time.
CRAIG KEILITZ: And also to touch on that, everything we talk about with the coaches, it goes to the Division I Baseball Committee to get their support in the NCAA, so we're in lockstep in the decision-making process. We may not always agree on the direction it needs to go, but I think we understand the process that needs to take place to be consistent and correct and rolled out in a correct manner.
Q. Ron, would there ever be a scenario where you consider adjusting the rules in the postseason versus the regular season in terms of how you would manage pace of play? Just because, obviously, the postseason, the elements are different, and most of those games -- they're all televised now, as compared to the regular season.
RON PRETTYMAN: That's interesting. We've not talked about that. I think that anything is up for discussion. I hate to change the game, at least in any dramatic fashion, from the way the game's been played throughout the year, but certainly something we could and would consider.
Q. This is for Ron and Scott. Scott, I know you kind of talked about the potential moving forward, maybe seeding 1 through 16. Did you guys talk about that at all during the meetings a couple weeks ago? Where does that stand in terms of moving that potentially forward?
RON PRETTYMAN: It's been something historically that the committee has talked about, and as we look out at it, in a broader scope, it's all about how do we grow the game? And if it's something that helps grow the game, then certainly we'll have the discussion, but it goes to another facet of it to go through the process.
So with that being said, we have had those discussions. We'll continue to have those discussions. I think we'll -- you know, through the summer and certainly into the fall, take a look at it historically, what have other committees thought about it? Why did it not pass then versus what are the chances of it passing now? And certainly get the comments from the ABC.
I think it goes without saying, you heard it here just a minute ago, about we are in lockstep in our communication. And I think having that that the coaches feel it's the right thing to do, the committee feels it's the right thing to do, has a much better chance of it being something we do long term.
SCOTT SIDWELL: It's certainly on the agenda, and we look at it to have some flexibility in geographical interests and travel issues and cost effectiveness and all of those kinds of things as well. It's something that gets talked about regularly, and we're -- I think the baseball committee is getting ready to make a recommendation to the next level of approval.
Q. Question for Scott. Reflecting on you and the committee, the task of putting together the 64 teams then setting them up and setting up the geography on all the thinking patterns, what did you learn about the process? Were you pleased with your fellow committee members on the criteria that you set up and each point, how that was weighted, when you looked at the teams? And you had mentioned how difficult it is sometimes, that razor's edge on one team gets in, one team doesn't get in. It seems like some of the media talks about now all of a sudden bubble teams, bubble teams growing in college baseball. Maybe that's a good thing in a way, but it seems like there's more and more. I'm not saying an expanded, but is it more difficult each season to put this together?
SCOTT SIDWELL: Here's what I would say. I think in a global sense it really speaks to how strong our game is. There are many, many institutions that are committing to the sport of baseball, and it's making it more and more challenging as you look at the broader teams that are going in in an at-large perspective.
As we look at the tremendous amount of data that comes at us -- so we have many, many conference calls. We have regional adviser committees. And then we get in Indianapolis over Memorial Day weekend, the discussions, I think, from a committee perspective are very fair and very balanced. People put their allegiances aside and say this is what's good for the game. How do you put those teams in?
I think what becomes challenging is, as it falls -- and this year there were an inordinate amount of automatic qualifiers that took spots that would have historically gone to at large teams. Whether it's right or wrong, I think that's just what it is. Each year is different, and I don't think you can look back and say, well, they put this many teams in that were from these leagues and north and south and east and west. I think it's a matter of how it all falls and the data that you have.
In my three years on the committee, I can emphatically say the committee does a wonderful job of taking the information we have and selecting the teams. There were great regionals. There were great Super Regionals. There were really tight games. We went to three games in multiple Supers. So you look at that and say, did you do a good job?
I think what ultimately happens is the game has to be played on the field. Ultimately, the teams that win advance, and that's the ultimate outcome.
Q. This is for Scott. You touched on something that's very interesting. There were 17 conference regular season champions that lost in their conference tournament and did not get in the NCAA regionals at all. I think it's never happened before. You kind of touched on that a little bit, but how difficult is that for a committee? I was wondering if there was any sentiment to doing away with conference tournaments to solve this issue once and for all?
SCOTT SIDWELL: Certainly for the equity of the game, I think it's a wonderful setup, and it's been set up this way for quite some time, to have the automatic qualifiers from the conferences and then have your at-large bid. So I think that's really a question for the association, not necessarily for the committee. If there ever was a movement for that, it would come from the group, not necessarily the baseball committee.
I think -- like I said a minute ago, it speaks to the volume of how good the game of baseball is, and it is becoming more difficult for teams that historically may have made the tournament to get in because there's other teams that are rising and being supported and playing a lot of good baseball.
So I think that's good for the game, from my perspective. I think the more we play and the better we are, it creates a better field. That ultimately is the outcome.
Q. For Craig, I'm curious if there's any momentum for adding that third paid assistant or if that's kind of stalled out right now?
CRAIG KEILITZ: In my opinion, our ratio is not very good for coaches to student-athletes in baseball. It's the worst, actually. So I hope we can get -- it's probably been the most difficult thing since I've taken over, the most difficult thing we've had to do is try to get everybody on the same page, get athletic directors to understand the need for that. But it's a lot more complicated than just seeing there's a need for it and then adding it.
Between the budgets, the lawsuits, some of the other areas we're looking at with the cost of attendance and so forth, finding those dollars. And it's not quite as simple as just adding an assistant coach in baseball and leaving it alone. There's gender-equity issues and so forth. So it's a lot more complicated than I think the public, or maybe even coaches understand at the highest level.
With that said, that's one of our major things, to provide another opportunity for a coach to get better student-athlete interaction between the coach and the student-athlete and doing what we think is right and growing the game. We'll see where it goes from there, but that's something we're working on every day to try to get done.
RON PRETTYMAN: If I can add to that -- and Craig touched upon it -- we're looking at all of it to find a way to strategically look at all of it. If that's something down the road that whatever it comes up, that we have a plan for how that would happen. And those are just discussion points. That doesn't mean there's any movement one way or the other on it. What it means is that we're working very much in collaboration with each other to say, if that's something we think is good for the game, then let's put a plan in place to move that forward.
Q. I think in the next year it's all 50 states and the District of Columbia will have pitch counts for high school pitchers. Is there any talk at all about that being something that happens at the college level? If so, how would that even go about? Like who would start that discussion?
THE MODERATOR: Craig, do you want to start?
CRAIG KEILITZ: We certainly discussed, it's interesting when USA Baseball, Major League Baseball came out with their Pitch Smart, we adopted it, endorsed it. We think it's very important. When you look at the numbers as they break down in the colleges, I think we had a couple violations over a two-year period. So the coaches were following it without the, I guess, process that you put into place formally.
With that said, after having discussions with our coaches, they're not in favor of it at this time, even though they follow it, for the simple fact that some kids, depending on whatever their makeup is -- if it's their senior year, if they're a side-arm thrower, if they can throw more often, if they're not going to play pro baseball and would like to throw more -- whatever those circumstances may be, we didn't think it was in their best interest to adopt the Pitch Smart or pitch count limitations even though all the coaches seem to be following safety guidelines for their individual student-athletes.
RON PRETTYMAN: We've got representatives here in the room today from USA Baseball that helped initiate this at a younger level. It's been very impressive, and it's been good for the game to see that happen. It is something that actually our sports science people at the NCAA are looking at, not in any position at this point to throw out any mandates or rule changes. We would like to have the coaches buy in to something if we did choose to go that route, but there's nothing on the near horizon at this point.
Q. Craig and Ron, I guess, or Scott, if you want to interject, I know the rules committee did not vote on this the last go-round, but what's the latest with the 25 percent minimum and the scholarship limit? I know they didn't vote on it, but do you guys still feel good about it getting passed in the future?
CRAIG KEILITZ: I don't know if I feel good at this time. It's been tabled. The reasoning behind that is our academics continue to go up. What Kendall is referring to is the 25 percent, the minimum aid that must be given to a baseball student-athlete.
The thing that I don't like about it is baseball is the only equivalency sport that has that -- I don't know -- stipulation on our scholarships. The 27 refers to the number of student-athletes who are able to get aid in any given year, and that one is really not as big a factor except that every once in a while when you have a student-athlete that gets drafted, they come back after the incoming freshmen have already been given aid and so forth, and you're short on the number of guys that you can have on aid.
So both of them, I think, should be eliminated. However, our coaches, based on where they are -- the haves, the have nots, the north, the south -- there's some discussions on that, and our coaches are around 65 percent in favor versus against. So it's not a clear-cut favorite with our coaches, but the majority would like to see that be eliminated.
RON PRETTYMAN: From our perspective, we're kind of waiting on a recommendation from the Coaches Association. We're certainly ready and willing to look at it. We have seen the academics improve since that whole process began. So I think, as soon as they come to a like mind, it's something we'll look hard at to take to the next step.
Q. Scott, you sort of alluded to this, so I just wanted to ask you. Has there been discussion, or do you anticipate discussion about the NCAA Tournament field and expanding it? Just because there are -- you know, there are a lot of good programs left out. And then, Craig, from a coaching -- from the coaches' perspective, has there been any sort of unanimous or any recognizable opinion about how the tournament is structured? And just sort of how they feel about how things are structured.
SCOTT SIDWELL: There has not been that discussion in my time on the committee, to answer your first question. As I've mentioned before, certainly, our role is to take the information that's provided to us based upon what's being discussed at the institutional level with the Coaches Association, and if that's something that comes to the committee, then certainly we'll discuss it.
I would point to there was a time when basketball was 64 and they went to 68. So you can't say it's never going to happen. I think there has to be -- you know, go through the process of information that comes to us, and our job is to be stewards of the game. If there's enough movement for that, then certainly we'll discuss it and adopt it.
CRAIG KEILITZ: On the perspective of coaches, they would love to see that happen. You don't hear from coaches very often unless they're sometimes the first four out. It's not an overwhelming talking point with our coaches right now. I think our coaches, along with our fans, who are like we have such a good product right now, the regionals, Super Regionals, and certainly the World Series is so incredibly popular that I don't think there's a huge rush to overturn that or change it in any way.
Q. So I guess just to follow up on that, no more talks about potentially switching to three straight weekends of best-of-three series for the sake of protecting arms as well?
SCOTT SIDWELL: From the committee's perspective, it's not something we've discussed in a change of format that's coming to us. Certainly, there may be some things that are bubbling up there in discussions beyond us, but it hasn't been formally brought to the committee, in my time on the committee.
Q. I think the basketball committee this past year decided to reveal its top, what was it, 16 or something maybe a month out. Would we ever see baseball do something similar to that or build buzz in that manner?
SCOTT SIDWELL: I think ultimately for the baseball committee we want to see continued growth of the game, and we want to continue the great support that's come. If ultimately, we go to announcing seeds early, those types of things.
Then those would be the next steps. We haven't discussed it at this point. There's a lot of work that goes into that. I think we'd have to take a step back and say, do we need to have discussions earlier?
But to say that's something that's imminent or something that's coming, it hasn't been discussed, but we're certainly not going to shut that down.
RON PRETTYMAN: Just to make a point on that, baseball is a funny game because we, the committee, got criticized a little bit for putting teams in that lost their last 8 out of 10 or whatever. Things can happen at the very last minute that can change the whole complex in this game when you're playing three to five games in a week. To try to scope out a month ahead of time who's going to be in that final group is probably not prudent for this game.
THE MODERATOR: Any final questions? All right. Thank you.
RON PRETTYMAN: Chris, let me make one more comment before we take off. I'm sorry.
One of my colleagues sent me a note about pace of play. To show that we are taking some action on it, we've reduced the time-outs, the TV time-outs from two minutes and 15 seconds to two minutes at every TV time-out, with the exception of two minutes, 10 seconds in the middle of the third and the middle of the seventh.
I think over the course of the game we're going to save several minutes. Those are the kinds of things that won't impact how the game is played, but it could impact the length of the game as we come up with some of these things over the course of time.
So thank you for sending that information to me and reminding me of that, because pace of play is important to us.
Q. (No microphone)?
RON PRETTYMAN: Just for the College World Series, yes. Thank you all.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports