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June 14, 2019

Anthony Holman

Craig Keilitz

Ray Tanner

Omaha, Nebraska

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the 2019 state of college baseball press conference. Here to talk to you today are Ray Tanner, the athletics director at South Carolina and chair of the Division I baseball committee, Anthony Holman, managing director of championships and alliances at the NCAA, and Craig Keilitz, executive director for the Baseball Coaches' Association. We're going to have a couple of opening comments from Anthony and maybe from Craig and then we'll go ahead and take your questions.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: Thanks, everybody, for hanging around and joining us today. I think this time last year I was probably 20, 30 days into the new position. I've been using the example of I was drinking from a fire hydrant, we got to down to a hose and now I'm trying to sip it through a straw a little bit with a lot of help from these two gentlemen next to me and a great staff that we have.

But thanks for being here. I'm excited about the field of teams we have competing with us here this year over the next two weeks. I'm just excited to talk a little bit to you about the academic performance that we've seen from our student athletes, as well. I think it's important as much as we celebrate the great catches and plays and pitching, a no-hitter thrown during regionals and super regionals, but these guys are also performing in the classroom, so I wanted to make sure that we touch on that a little bit.

Baseball athletes have continued to increase their academic performance, and their progress rates have doubled over the last decade. We're up to 975 now for baseball student athletes, which is incredible. Our graduation rates are up to 82 percent with several of our teams here this week are turning in scores in the 90s. Really, really proud of that and want to make sure that we celebrate those young men and that performance, as well.

Also wanted to take this time to give a shout-out to Coach Martin and acknowledge his great years of service, and we're excited to have him here to celebrate and recognize him and his final season. Wish the Seminoles good luck in that sense.

I'll stop now and let -- I don't know if Craig has any opening remarks and then we'll take questions from you guys.

CRAIG KEILITZ: I'm proud to be here. This is always my favorite time of the year to come and celebrate baseball, but more importantly, to celebrate our coaches and student athletes. I know all of you in this room had a chance to meet with our coaches, and I was able to be in the last press conference with our coaches, and there's no wonder why they do an incredible job, but they care about their kids so much academically and socially and the way they develop them as young men throughout their lives is just absolutely incredible.

I'm proud to be associated with those coaches and all of our coaches, but our great game, and certainly great to be here in Omaha, one of my favorite places in the world. Looking forward to another great championship.

RAY TANNER: I'll make one comment. I apologize for being underdressed, but I'm here in a work-related role. I'm actually on duty right now, so I'm working. But it's been an honor to serve on the selection committee for the last four years. This is my final year. I think there are term limits or I got kicked off, I'm not sure, but it's been a real honor to be a part of. It's been a lot of fun. It's certainly a passion, and I'm excited about what's going to happen here in the next few days.

Q. Coach Tanner, have y'all thought any about play-in games, maybe a 65 through 68? That's come up a couple of times. Your thoughts?
RAY TANNER: Well, you know, I told Anthony when we sat down that I was going to use a line that I would defer to Anthony Holman on that question. But selfishly or personally, I guess, because of what basketball has done, you do think about those things. I'm not sure that's on the table or would ever be, but I don't think you can rule it out. We're always trying to grow. I remember years ago we were at 48, and we went to the 64, so I don't think you take anything off the table if there's an opportunity to make our game better.

Q. Ray, during the SEC tournament Greg Sankey made a comment on ESPN that he thought there could be kind of a way around this third assistant. Any details on what that might involve?
RAY TANNER: Well, very seriously, I would defer to Mr. Holman here on the process that he's referring to of the legislative cycle.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: Yeah, so hot potato, I'm going to pass that to Craig, only because Craig has been really, really involved in that and probably could speak more eloquently than I on that process.

CRAIG KEILITZ: I don't know about that, but I don't think there's anything in the process that allows that to happen. I think that is leaders getting together and saying that we've made a mistake, that this is the right thing to do, and it needs to happen for so many reasons. Our ratio is the families having a coach work 60, 70 hours a week for free, not get tickets to games, not get parking at their institution, not getting a paycheck, not getting healthcare. So I think that someone after it happens, many leaders thought, what did we do or what didn't we do, and I was so disappointed on so many levels, and somewhat surprised, and I wasn't surprised not necessarily that it didn't go through, but the people that had an opportunity to make a difference and lead did not. I was very surprised by that, and I think it was upsetting. I was hurt for the coaches and our student athletes, and I think it was really bad optics.

But all we were asking for is to get our coaches and our student athletes at the same ratio that nearly all of our sports had, not to move ahead, just to get them there, and anybody that could look at what's happening in our game and lump this with some other sports, and nothing against any other sport, and we may not be basketball with the numbers and the TV yet and we're not far off. We may not be football, but we're certainly not with the other sports when you look at what's happened with our championship, with our attendance, with our grades, with everything that's taking forward.

I think there is going to be a recall on that. I hope that great leaders can get together and say, let's do this one over.

Q. Craig, that's over two months ago now; what kind of has happened since then, and what have you been working on moving forward from there?
CRAIG KEILITZ: Well, I'm not willing to share what we're working on right now until I can meet with all the appropriate people, but really I think, again, it was embarrassment and realization that the wrong decision was made. And I'm going to touch on one more thing, and then I'd like to move on because I think this is about our championship and probably not the best place to talk about this with our kids getting ready to play for the most important thing of their lives, but the lack of leadership in my opinion, and I don't want to be too outspoken on this, they couldn't find a way to get to a yes. So an athletic director to talk with their baseball coach and simply say, if this is the case, I don't want to spend any more money on the sport of baseball, can you find a way within your budget to juggle things around so I can give a yes answer for this, get benefits and pay to your coach, get our ratios correct and then move forward, I don't know how that couldn't happen.

We gave all the options in the world, and I'm going to give all the credit to the SEC and Coach Tanner. We've been talking about this for four years. I think it was three years ago Coach Tanner and I talked in the hallway and he said, We're going to get this done through the SEC and we're going to need your help really educating the coaches. So we had a very detailed plan, and sometimes when things fail you go back and look at that plan and say did we have the right plan in place, and I can unequivocally say we did, other than the result.

But notify the coaches, get absolute data on where our ratios were, where the percentage of our coaches in favor of it, get all that information out. Athletic directors talk to their AD's and then talk about options. You could have made it a volunteer position, you could have made it a GA position, you can make it a part-time or a full-time and pay as much as you'd like so there's not a financial element to it, and then use creativity through leadership to get it done, and we didn't. That's what I'm really disappointed about.

RAY TANNER: I apologize, I agree with Craig. We should be focusing on what is about to happen here in Omaha with eight great teams getting ready to play for a national championship. But when we embarked on this volunteer position being eliminated, I really didn't have any doubts that it would pass. It's a student-athlete well being issue, it's a ratio to players to coaches. It's the worst in all of Division I athletics. I really never thought that it would not go through. And it failed. It was a tremendous disappointment to me because of everything we hear in the collegiate -- intercollegiate athletics is about student well-being, and that didn't carry the day with a vote, which was disappointing.

The second piece of that is we're failing to develop coaches. Craig clearly stated that it's not about how much you pay a guy, it's give him an opportunity to grow. If you're a school that really doesn't finance the position or can't, you can go across town and let your kid play. You can learn to recruit, you can get off campus, you can be involved. We can eliminate the word volunteer. You're a coach. In many cases they work more hours than the two paid coaches work. So I'm hoping that there's an avenue as we move forward that this will be resolved. I think it's the right thing to do. It's the fair thing to do if we are sincere about student athletic well-being.

Q. For Ray, Anthony and Craig, we appreciate all the hard work you do for this great game. Ray, reflecting now with the committee and following baseball during the year and having to put together 64 teams is not easy and bracketing all of them, looking at what you made the decisions on and then what happened, what are your thoughts, because we got the eight teams here, but it started with your guys looking at everything and putting it together, and here we are.
RAY TANNER: Well, I would say that being a part of the committee for the last four years and having been a coach and having been through it on the other side, it's very difficult to leave teams out. 64 get in, and you always look at 65, 66, maybe through 71 or 72, and it's just -- it doesn't feel good because you don't want to leave anybody out. But we did have a great committee. We have tremendous staff at the NCAA who provide the metrics that we need to make decisions, and I think it's a really good field. I'm not saying that there's not a mistake made there somewhere, but we tried not to make mistakes and tried to get the right people in the field. I think it was some really good games and reflected as we went through the regionals and super regionals, and we've ended up in a good place, and certainly a great field here in Omaha.

Q. Looking at the situation talked about, potentially a recall or something like that, is there a precedent at all of the Division I council coming back and going, actually we've changed our mind on this without the proposal needing to be put up again?
CRAIG KEILITZ: Boy, it's kind of out of my lane. I'm not in governance.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: Not to my recollection.

Q. Changing the subject a little bit, there was obviously a pretty controversial ejection in the regional round, which I think generated some discussion about the automatic four-game suspension for all players. I'm curious first of all, do you think that should be revisited as it pertains to players in different roles, relief pitcher versus a starting pitcher? And secondly, the lack of an appeals process, and I know that's something that coaches on the umpire relations committee have pushed for and appeals process, some kind of a fair review process, and they've been stiff-armed on that. What do you guys think about that, and is that something that you think needs to happen?
ANTHONY HOLMAN: So I'll start here on this part here about when the rule was enacted, there was consideration given about starting pitchers, middle relief, closers, that type of thing. Unfortunately unlike with the Major League Baseball rule where they have some latitude and they also have some discretion because someone is making each of those individual suspensions and they're looking at each of those situations uniquely, we don't have that ability at the collegiate level. We don't have a commissioner or someone that those come to. So we have to have an adherence to a rule. The pitchers, whether they're starter or reliever or what have you, if they're a pitcher, it comes with an automatic four games.

Now, is it worth looking at? Absolutely, and I think we've had some discussion about that. The challenge is going to be how do you determine that, because institutions may say he's a starter, but he throws relief or he throws -- so that part is challenging. But we have made a commitment for the rules body to review that to see if there's some latitude to be had.

As far as the appeals process, just candidly I don't foresee that happening. We don't have an appeals process in our sport where an unsportsmanlike act has taken place, and part of that is for just pure -- it's to be a deterrent. This is severe, so you would avoid putting yourself in that situation because you know the penalty is severe. So I don't foresee us having an appeals process, but there could be some movement on how the suspensions are applied to pitchers.

RAY TANNER: I will accentuate what Anthony said. I think it's fair that the rules committee is challenging, and over the years things have changed. I think it's time to take a deep dive to see if there is a solution.

Q. It seems in college athletics that there's maybe a gap that's growing between the haves, the have-nots, the top tier, the Power Five schools are making a lot of money, most of them with their football programs, TV deals, that sort of thing. Is that a concern in the sport, Anthony? Do you think that -- I don't even know how you can address that, but is there a concern from that standpoint? And Craig, have you heard from coaches at maybe smaller budget schools of maybe ideas that have been proposed or different things that they've thought about to try to combat sort of that gap that I feel like exists or seems to be growing?
ANTHONY HOLMAN: Well, again, from the national office, we don't get involved a whole lot about how institutions manage their resources. Have we seen a gap? What we've seen is an increase in revenues for institutions. Is that gap growing or is it a little faster for Power Fives? Absolutely, because they've got some additional resources.

But what we've also seen, and this is across all sports, not just in baseball, that institutions and coaches are having to be more creative in how they allocate resources, and I applaud them for that. But I think you also see that I don't know what the correlation is for budgets versus success. I think people are probably starting to do some studies and analysis on that. The biggest thing that we see in football, which is one of the sports I work on, is the ability to add stats and support, and that does make a difference.

CRAIG KEILITZ: Well, I'm encouraged why the gap is happening. It really isn't that people are falling behind, it's really the haves are pushing ahead at such an incredible rate. So I'm excited about that.

The one thing that I wish fans did a better job with is when programs aren't winning, I think more times than not, it deals with the administration. We have so many great coaches coaching baseball, and I'm just going to speak on baseball. The difference maker is the administration and what they do with their facilities, their operating budget, their support, how they're able to handle financial aid, allowing them to get the right coaching staff, giving them the right meals and nutrients, so when fans are upset that their program is not winning, the first place they should look is their administration and what they are and are not doing for their baseball program.

But our game is growing at such a rapid rate, and it's with the elite programs taking this huge step, more so than I think it's others taking a step back.

RAY TANNER: Remember, I'm an administrator, so... (laughter.)

Q. Anthony, we saw last night during the draft, Commissioner Manfred again made a pitch talking about moving the draft. Where does that relationship between MLB and the NCAA, where is that right now, and where do you think it's going after what we saw last night?
ANTHONY HOLMAN: Yeah, so I think we continue to grow our relationship with MLB. Last night is a great example of that. I think from our side, from the national office side, we certainly are open to continuing that. We haven't had specific discussions about the draft. I did hear the commissioner's comments, and I think we don't dictate where they have that. I think if it were this time of year, and I have expressed this both publicly and to the commissioner's office, we would love for their draft not to occur during the time of our regionals, so if that looks like it's different and that helps, I think maybe there's an opportunity for that.

But again, we've not had any in-depth discussions about what that might look like.

Q. Anthony, I was wondering if there was any concern about the automatic qualifiers in this tournament. This past season there were 13 teams that won their conference regular season, and because they were in kind of conferences that don't have the power to get at-large bids, they only get one team, so they don't win their tournament and they're not in, so that happened 13 times this year. Two years ago there were 17 teams that won their regular season, sometimes as many as 15 games. Is that a problem when you don't get the regular season champions in this tournament?
ANTHONY HOLMAN: Man, that's a good question. I think conference tournaments have become extremely important in baseball, and it really is a good microcosm of what you see as you get here. Now, do you have the arms, can you do that. So that's really a good testament or testimony on how good your team is. Not to discount what you're doing during the season, but does this look like that. So I don't know if that's -- if the answer is it's not good for them not to get in. I think it's more about the quality of play during the season, can you afford to not win your conference tournament, is your body of work during the conference season good enough that you can still be considered even if you don't win your conference tournament. I think that has to do with scheduling and playing a competitive schedule and putting yourself in a position that you're not dependent on the AQ and your body of work helps to propel you regardless of that.

RAY TANNER: I would say to you in the selection room, the teams that won their regular season, the teams that won their conference tournament, the teams that finished second in their regular season, no matter what the conference is, we take a strong look at those teams from the first day in the selection room because we want to try to get it right. It doesn't matter what conference it is, but it is about the caliber of program that you have, and we try to look at all the metrics that are aligned with the strength of schedule, non-conference strength of schedule and so forth, so we don't leave anybody out.

I understand the statistic that you used, but it doesn't go unnoticed. They get consideration right out of the gate, no matter what the conference is.

CRAIG KEILITZ: I don't have a comment on that. I think the conferences, if I'm not mistaken, have an opportunity to go with the regular season champion if they choose to do so. I think that championship feeling at some of the conferences that probably don't have an excellent opportunity to continue to move on love that, and the championship feeling that the student athletes get during that one weekend or that week at the end of the year is probably pretty special, as well. It would be a tough one to go against.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: We're seeing some conferences playing unbalanced so you're not seeing everybody through the season, so I think that plays into it, as well.

Q. I don't know how much input you have on rules committee kind of things, but one of the more controversial things that went into effect this year was the hit by pitch rule and awarding a strike for a ball that in the batter's box hits a player if he's deemed not to have moved out of the way. Is this something you guys think is working or something that needs to be revisited?
RAY TANNER: I would say that -- I probably should be careful with what I say. But I think that when the season started, it was prevalent, and it was disappointing to me that -- because I saw all the videotape and the clips were sent to me where it was very clear that it was not close to being a strike whether the guy froze or moved or flinched. It wasn't the case. I think that as the season went on, across the country, I think umpires took a different view that it did not end up the way that it started. I think there were a lot of no calls. I'm certainly okay to leave the hitter in the box if he tried to get hit, you're not taking first base, you're staying in the box.

But I think we took that rule in the very beginning of the season and the umpires followed it to the letter of the law, and I think that they took a better viewpoint as the season went on. I don't know whether you agree with that or not, but I think that was the case. But I think it has to be revisited as to how it is written.

Q. Ray, you've been around the game for a while; more college guys are getting drafted. Why do you think that is?
RAY TANNER: Well, I think it goes back to a little bit about what Craig had shared, that the administrators, athletic directors, college presidents have invested in college baseball around the country. It's a great game. We've got Coach Mattis is in the back of the room, some other guys. It wasn't always this case. The emphasis on college baseball is at an all-time high. The coaches are skilled. Their assistant coaches are very, very much qualified. The crossover is happening. It didn't happen in years past. The professional ranks are coming after college coaches now to go to their systems, and I think that's one of the things that has just made the game so good. And if you're a Major League organization, and I'm just giving you my opinion, when you draft a player, it's a risk on the success and how quickly it will become. When you achieve at a high level, the brand of baseball that's being played around the country, I think your margin of error is reduced, as you've started to see more college players being drafted higher. And I think that speaks volumes to the coaches and the staffs and the investment that has been made.

I think young men are looking at the college ranks thinking, this is a very good training ground. I'm not postponing or I'm not cancelling my dream of the future. I'm going to partake in my education and hopefully be finished in three years or 75 percent of the way. I can still play professional baseball, and I think that has enhanced, and I think it's been recognized. I think our investment has been recognized by people at the MLB level.

CRAIG KEILITZ: When you look through the statistics, the college players are making it to the Major Leagues faster, stay longer, make more money. I mean, when you look at what happens, and none of that makes sense when Major League Baseball can take the top 90 out of the top 100 kids right then. We get the next 10 and then after that we still get there faster, stay there longer, make more money. And I think it goes back to the way our coaches develop them not only as a player but as a person, in the weight room, nutrition, their mental makeup, teaching them how to play the game right, where they may not have learned that all the way through and then they may not learn it in Minor League baseball before they get to the pros and being a great teammate, learning some tough lessons on losing and humility and not being the best player on the team. So our game is so, so good right now, and I think the pros are really seeing that, and I think the high school kids are seeing that over and over and over again when you have a young man at Vanderbilt that throws a no-hitter and you think he could pitch in the Major Leagues right now and he probably could, but he knew the best thing he could do was go to Vanderbilt or go to college and then make it.

The other aspect that people are starting to talk about a little bit more is if you don't make it in pro baseball, and very few do, and you go out of high school, and then all of a sudden you're 28, 29 years old and you don't have a penny to your name and you move back in with your parents, you don't have an education, who are you going to go back to school with. I mean, it's a tough road and we've all seen those instances. It changes their life, I think, for the worse when that doesn't work out.

Q. Craig, what have coaches told you about the review process now that it's kind of a part of the game it seems like?
CRAIG KEILITZ: Well, I'm hearing that it's not perfect, but it's really going in the right direction. It allows them to be a little bit more human like as they talk to the umpire, knowing that it's getting reviewed. It's real easy to do this rather than sprint out there and scream and yell. So I think we're certainly going down the right road on that, and I think we need to rely on our coaches to try to improve that process, and the NCAA I think has done a tremendous job not only with the umpires but through the process to figure out the best ways to handle situations through our coaches. They know best. It doesn't mean they have to write the rules and how we get things done, but to get their input and then advise it to make it work for our process. But I think we're going in the right direction.

ANTHONY HOLMAN: That's part of the hope. I think we were here last year, and we talk a lot about pace of play, but we at the same time were expanding the number of reviewable plays, what's the balance in that. One of the things that didn't get a whole lot of conversation on, but if that addition of replays provides another layer of comfort for coaches and we have fewer confrontations, to me that's a win, and we've seen that a little bit. We had 123 games and we had 167, 168 reviews, so about just under one and a half per game. But the average review time was about a minute and 17 seconds. So I don't think we added a lot of time to the games. So I feel like it was positive, and we were able to add it to the regional level, as well, and were fortunate. It's not perfect, like Craig said, but we'll continue to tweak that and hopefully make the game a better game.

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