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June 14, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our annual state of college baseball conference, and I'm going to turn it over to the folks from the NCAA. And our other people on the panel, Kyle Kallander, the commissioner of the Big South Conference, who is the chairman of the NCAA Baseball Committee, and Dave Keilitz from the ABCA.
DENNIS POPE: I was waiting for a profound statement to open this press conference, and you kind of caught me off guard. Well, welcome, we appreciate you coming and being part of this. We started this state of college baseball press conference years ago, and it's mandatory now. And I think one of the good things about baseball in particularly under the leadership of Dave Keilitz and the ABCA, we've addressed those issues and had great cooperation with coaches and the baseball committee currently chaired by Kyle. Has been involved, and it's always been a great working relationship between the ABCA and the Division I baseball committee.
As a result, we've overused the word proactive instead of reactive to a lot of things. As we all know, in this day and age, you still react, and you still have to be prepared.
To start it off, I think with regard to the 2012 World Series we had a great year to be back at home. I'm even pleased with the first year. And I'll brag on my self, whenever you get an editorial in the hometown newspaper you get a home run, it's successful. I actually have that editorial framed in my office. So whenever the NCAA in this day and age gets a positive article like that, we keep that in front of our folks so they can see it.
But we're here to answer any question about college baseball. If it's championship related, that's fine, APR whatever. It's kind of an open forum for all of you. And we'll be available afterwards, and we'll see each other for the next few weeks, so if we need to talk, we have time to talk to one another here. This is kind ave more formal setting.
But maybe we'll just open it up for questions, unless Kyle or Dave you want to add any opening comments and we'll go from there.
KYLE KALLANDER: A couple of things, if I could. First of all, I do have a blue blazer, I left it in the hotel. Some of us are working today (laughing). First of all, first thing I want to say is thank you to Omaha. They do such an outstanding job. We talked the other night about how special this event is. The NCAA has 89 championships, and none of them are like the college baseball championship. Omaha is a special place with special people. The fans are incredible, the organization is wonderful, the support they put into it, and this facility is certainly a testament to that. So certainly anything we say at the start with that.
As far as the state of college baseball, I'd say it's excellent. You look around. Look at what's taken place this season, what's taken place in the tournament, and it really has been unbelievable and really heartening to those of us who love college baseball.
You look at the field that we have here for the CWS, and that just shows that any program in the country, any program can compete for the National Championship. Which is wonderful for the sport, and wonderful for the programs that really care about college baseball.
I think as we look at trends in college baseball and what we've done recently, it's all very positive. It's interesting, because a lot of the actions we've taken over the last several years aren't necessarily meant to address the competitive side of baseball, but what's happened is it has resulted in a lot of parody. The parody we saw this year, which we talked about when we selected field this year, which was very difficult because there is so much parody, and what you saw in the Regionals and Super Regionals just shows the tremendous competition across the country in college baseball right now.
So what am I talking about? We took action several years ago in terms of length of the season and made some adjustments to that. We took some action trying to address the academics in college baseball. The transfer rule, making it more difficult to transfer, having to sit out a year in baseball. We also put in place squad limits in baseball, scholarship limits in baseball. All of those things really served to not only address the academic issues, which it has, and by the way, congratulations to Kent State for once again being in the top 10% in the APR. That was just announced. But it's also really helped the competitiveness of baseball, and the parody of baseball.
The other thing is the bats. I think you heard that in the press conference earlier today, how that's really served to level things out as well. So all of those things that the NCAA has done has really improved a lot of aspects of college baseball, and by the way, the competition as well.
So as we look at college baseball moving forward, one other thing that we've done that's going in place next year is addressing the RPI. We're weighting away wins heavier, similar to what basketball has done in the past. That's again helping a lot of schools that traditionally have to go on the road early in the season to play. It helps them. We want to recognize what they're doing with their programs and try to level that playing field a little bit.
We're very excited about college baseball. Very excited about the trends and looking forward to how that will play out, because we really believe that these aren't just aberrations we're talking about this year. We think it's going to continue.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Kyle. Kyle and Denny addressed it very well.
DAVE KEILITZ: We really appreciate. We being the 6800 coaching members of the American Baseball Coaching Association. We enjoy working hand in hand with the NCAA, and the NCAA Baseball Committee.
As Dennis said, we try to be proactive in all of this, and find out from our coaches what our biggest concerns and biggest issues, take those four and it's worked well. We're down to very few issues that we feel have to be addressed at our major problems or issues with us, and it's because of what we've been able to do over the years working hand in hand with the NCAA, and the Baseball Committee.
Kyle addressed some of the major things extremely well here, and I think with that we'll open it up.
Q. It's great to see Dennis, Dave, Bill again, and first time for me to meet Kyle. Question for Kyle, looking back with the committee and setting up this year's tournament, I thought it was kind of interesting that one step where the Oregon bracket and Purdue bracket, depending on what could have happened. We might have had a team for the first time get here, and it turns out that we did with Kent State. Are we going to see more of that? How difficult is it to geographically set up things and the challenges of that? Because you did get teams from the west coast here from the east, from the upper midwest east, and the southwest, which is very unique, five seeds, four national seeds, a 2, 3, and a 4. Is this a trend or where is all this shaking out?
KYLE KALLANDER: Well, it was not intended to do that. We didn't have that in mind when we set up the field. When we get to the bracketing part of the selection process, it really is based on geography. It's based on how can we limit the number of trips and develop Regionals where student‑athletes and it's also healthy for the game too when you have a local team, fans can travel close by, hopefully to get to their teams.
So those are some of the things that we consider when we put those together. So the way it worked out, it just kind of worked out that way. Is it a trend? I hope so, quite frankly. I think it's good for the game. I'm in a position where I'd love to see Regionals in every region of the country. I'd love to see northern schools continue to do well and trend better because this is a national game, and it should be. A lot of things that I've talked about already are with an emphasis to really address the health of the game nationally.
Q. Dennis, can you update us on the status of the discussions with MLB about potentially funding additional on scholarships for college baseball?
DENNIS POPE: Sure. Major League Baseball and the players association and NCAA has had a wide range of discussions in recent years. It's varied from the diversification of the players in baseball, scholarships, ways to enhance college baseball. Areas of interest that really if you put it in perspective, benefit the entire sport, whether it's college, professional or whatever.
I've been very impressed with the willingness of both Major League Baseball and the Players Association to discuss these issues. We've had many discussions, but I need to reemphasize that at this point, they're all conceptual. Nothing has been decided; nothing has been agreed upon. We're continuing to have good discussions, it just takes time.
Obviously, Major League Baseball and the Players Association are involved in another very involved incident or issue last year. I think what I was impressed with too was how Major League Baseball and the Players Association arrived at the CBA rather harmoniously if you will. And Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred were the leaders of that, and they should be commended for the progress they made there. And they should know there are some elements in there that benefited college baseball and a few other things.
We've always had relationships with the professional leagues, I would say. Dave has done a good job of maintaining relationships with Major League Baseball personnel, and he has annual meetings with them. I think what you're seeing is a better relationship with the future. I think it's also there are more college players having success in the Major Leagues.
So I guess as an aside, I've been impressed with Major League Baseball's acknowledgment that it's very important to have a good education, and in the long run they're seeing that as a real benefit.
That's a long‑winded answer to say we're still talking. Nothing is proven, nothing has been decided, but, yes, it's moving in the right direction.
Q. Kyle, looking at Stony Brook and Kent State being here, chances are good that if they didn't win their conference tournament, they probably wouldn't have gotten in the field. Just speculating here. But do these two teams making this kind of make you guys step back and will revaluate how you look at some of these northern schools that may be at a disadvantage schedulingwise?
KYLE KALLANDER: We meet in July and sit down and evaluate what our selections were, how they did, how things played out. So during that process, that is certainly something we need to look at. It's easy to lean on one factor another too much. When you're looking at teams and trying to think about them and select them, so I think it's always a healthy exercise, certainly, to do that.
You know, the challenge is when you've got teams from parts of the country that don't have a strong schedule because of where they live. They go on the road and they play a lot of games, which is tough because maybe the first time they traveled to Florida or Texas is the first time they've been outside all year, and you're trying to balance that and evaluate that against a lot of schools and certainly it's important for us to evaluate that.
Q. Kyle, has it been any teams across the country that have doctored their bats that you're aware of? I know stats show it is very low, but teams sometimes try to get away with things.
KYLE KALLANDER: I am not aware of that. I'm not trying to be naive here at all. I'm personally not aware of that.
DAVE KEILITZ: I am not either. I've not had one call all year of a coach that suspected anything. I know that you wrote the article about the high school issue, but as far as the Divisions I, II, or III or NEIA, I have not heard any of that at all.
Q. Last year you guys talked a lot about potentially changing the format of the postseason. Where did that stand right now?
DENNIS POPE: Still under discussion. The adage is if it ain't broke, don't fix it. We're kind of falling into that rut, if you will. Kyle alluded to it earlier and I have to agree with him, I don't think in all my years with college baseball that I've seen a healthier sport at this point in time. The progress of the stadiums being built and the success of teams from areas have not normally had success.
I think those are all good signs for college baseball. But we'll continue to review the formats. The buzz word last year, working our way through to try to have that two out of three all the way through. It's complicated by many things in the conference tournaments, the times, some of the schedules that these young men play college baseball, and go home and have a real life during the summer or whatever.
We're just kind of cramped for time, taking away from the season. Existing contracts in the postseason, and conference games.
I was pleased. I haven't received any attendance figures from Super Regionals and all that, but by watching on TV, the majority of them, unless the home team wasn't playing and we had a few of those, were very well attended. Those are always areas we want to work on.
But I think one of the things we have is consistency. Two out of three would be consistent, but at this time it's just problematic trying to work it into the existing timeframe we have. But I will say one of the biggest changes we ever made in college baseball is going from the 16 Regionals to the 14 Regionals.
That really changed, going back to what Kyle is saying, that means that a team that had four or five pitches can go to a six team regional, you can get by with two or three pitchers. That gave some teams a better opportunity than prior to that.
I guess my point there is certainly a format change is significant, and whenever we do that, it has to be well thought through.
Q. Dennis, your thoughts on the instant replay that we're going to have at the tournament, the thought process related to that. We're going to see how it flows?
DENNIS POPE: First of all, hope we never use it, but it's a good procedure. In all fairness, the Baseball Rules Committee and those of us that have been involved and talked about instant replay, I want to say we did a study two or three years ago to become familiar with Major League Baseball instant replay protocol.
We're ready to consider it, I guess. When we had the home run, no home run last year, we looked at various options within the stadium to take care of that, and often times when you fix something, you might create more problems than you can fix. So we said this is a very good opportunity to make sure you get the call right.
Again, I've had to reiterate, I'm sure you've seen our press release, but it's a very limited instant replay protocol, particularly if it's a home run or not a home run. It does give us an opportunity to avoid, thank God, last year it did not influence the game. So we just don't want that to happen when these games are so important to these young players and coaches and institutions.
Just to elaborate a little more, it's not as easy as it is in football to have instant replay, because almost every football game is televised and almost every facility has the capability to review instant replay. But our system, some facilities aren't conducive.
We have a great facility here with our stadium in that the umpire can walk 20 seconds, and be back within a minute. It can be a very quick turn around. In some stadiums, they wouldn't be able to do that because they're not televised.
Those are things the committee will take a look at and continue to review. But, yeah, we have it. So we're ready and prepared. Going through a dry run today, I guess, to make sure ESPN and everyone's on the same page. Just so you know, only the umpires go in there. None of us can go in there and influence them in any way. It's an umpire's decision.
Q. A commending point, returning to the bat simulate wood, and how powerful it's been for the game. I say that from the perspective of being an Omaha guy who has a chance to talk to a lot of youth and high school coaches, and the reason is because they simulate that themselves now more, and the fundamentals are taught more. Baseball has such a way of modifying fundamentals more like basketball, football because of the construct of the game. Having said that, and really, it's been wonderful as I've seen it. Because I get on sandlots and watch kids play, and they're bunting more, they're having to execute plays differently rather than the 15 to 12 games. You're seeing more 6‑2 games and that kind of thing. Is there anything else‑‑ I mean, there is nothing I have in my mind. But I was wondering if there is anything else that's closer to the Major League game that college baseball is looking at as well to get closer to that point of modification?
KYLE KALLANDER: I'll let Dennis and Dave address this. But your implication is the Major League Baseball game is better than college baseball, and being a college baseball guy I'm not sure I completely agree with that. And I made a comment to somebody when I was watching one of the conferences this morning, do Major League Baseball teams even practice bunting when they're in BP?
During one of the Super Regionals, I sent a text to the AD at Stony Brook as I was watching the game. I can't remember where it was in the game, but there was a clean‑up batter up, and he bunted. It was an awesome bunt. I sent him a text, and I said I love it when the four hole hitter lays it down. That's college baseball. That's what's great about it. So just an editorial there.
DAVE KEILITZ: I don't know any other answer that would simulate Major League Baseball. But the main thing about the bat is our coaches like it. We don't survey the players, but we surveyed the coaches, and this time a year ago after everybody had an opportunity to use the new BP core bat for a year, we surveyed the coaches on that, and I asked them three things. Do you like the new bat standards? Second thing I asked is is it acceptable? And third thing, I do not like the bat.
84% of the Division I coaches said they either liked the bat or it was acceptable, and 16% didn't like the bat. In Division II and III it was even greater than that where 90% of the coaches liked the bat or said it was acceptable. So it's almost a non‑issue.
The thing I like about it personally, and I think a lot of the coaches do, it puts more of the old traditional baseball back in the game with the hit‑and‑run, the sacrifice bunt, the bunt for a hit, the stolen base which we got away from for a while. It also moves the game along.
The games have been shortened due to a combination of things, the pitch clock, which isn't even a factor anymore. The players have accepted that. They speed up the routine. So it doesn't even become like we have a pitch clock anymore. It is there, plus the new bat.
It keeps more people in the game, and I think that's one of the reasons that you saw so many teams advance this year that have not in the past from the north to the northeast, because you're always in the game. So there are arguments both ways, but the majority of our coaches have accepted it and like it.
Q. I'm curious when a team visits and hosts a Super Regional, is there any mechanism in place. You're going to host at the University of Arizona. And they have extreme temperatures in Tucson of 105 and higher normally this time of year, but yet you're told to play at noon and 1:00 if necessary. Do you think schools should get a rebate, because fans are not going to come out at those temperatures. I'm just curious.
KYLE KALLANDER: That's a great question. Well, all the bidding is done before selection takes place. And we only really look at the financials when we have teams that are placed in in the Regionals, and correct me if I'm wrong, Dennis, but the Super Regional is always rewarded to the better team.
In terms of game time, we talked about that issue and we're sensitive to that. We work with our media partner, ESPN, closely on game times and where games slot out.
So we were concerned about it, but ultimately we sat out and said is 100 degrees in Tucson worse than 95% humidity in Baton Rouge? So we felt like we've been in that situation before, but we've got to make a tough decision, and frankly, these kids go out and play in it, and know what it's like. Not to minimize it because we're very concerned about the student‑athlete's safety, but we felt like we were okay in doing what we did.
Q. Dennis, back in the convention in Anaheim, you talked a lot about the fact that the relationship with the student‑athletes. Anything change in that regard over the last seven months?
DENNIS POPE: I work for the NCAA, so we haven't. No. It's just a very complicated thing. In all fairness to those folks doing it, I'll have Kevin talking about it, our vice president. It's really a very, very difficult project and reviewing it, and looking at our manual. You've heard the emphasis whether you have a bagel or bagel with cheese, one's a violation and one is not. Trying to get rid of those things and make sense.
Part of this is a more serious discussion with the player‑agent issue. There is an understanding, and let me just say first of ten, these guys have every bit of knowledge to make an informed decision. Like football and basketball, you don't opt to be drafted in baseball or hockey. You just get drafted.
Oftentimes, it's a young man that never even thought about it. All of a sudden, am I worth a million dollars or $500,000 if I sign that contract? Somehow we need to make sure that man has the ability to make those informed decisions within the confines of the regulations that we have.
So I like to comment on this, but I don't see the membership ever changing its opinion that there should be no financial benefits or anything provided by an agent to a collegiate athlete. That's got to be the principle. But if I had a kid who was 295 and a left‑hander, I've been around college baseball a long time, I'm not sure I would know what his worth is. But that's what it amounts to. How much would he sign for?
I just want to make sure he has the right information in front of them, and they have a person that would be able to advise them. It's really different. We've had continuing discussions and a more healthy discussion. One size doesn't fit all, and that is primarily the thing. It's good reasons why. It's a collegiate organization and the model and all should be treated alike.
But when you have the outside world, if you will, professionals involved you have to take a look at it. To be honest with you it's a very healthy discussion. I know Kevin doesn't have a mic. Okay. That's what you wrote (laughing).
Q. With five teams being on Eastern standard time and games starting at 8:00 because of ESPN because of soccer coverage and all that sort of thing. Do you think that will have any impact in case we have delays in terms of when to call a game or not to call a game? Is there any question about that issue? I don't know if it's an issue, but I'm curious if it's a later deal?
DENNIS POPE: It's an issue. Mine and Chad and my staff, we've talked about that because those of you as old as me remember we used to go at‑‑ what was it? 4 and 7 in the old days? We started at 4:00 and 7:00. We never started at 7:00 o'clock any time I was here. I think it was, yeah, it was before me. Those were ancient days. That's the old, old days.
But it does. One of the good things about baseball, and one of the things I love about baseball coaches and players, just let me play. Let me go out there and play. Tell me when I can play. I'll go out and play. I know I might have to stop, might be rain. No other sport would accept that kind of disruption in their play.
The challenge we have is not to disrupt it anymore than Mother Nature disrupts it. We talked about how late we'd go before we start that second game. You know, we've kicked around scenarios, and how to trust yourself. Certainly with Kyle and the committee, we'll sit down and keep communicating with the coaches. Communicate with all those people involved and make that decision at the time.
But it's exacerbated the situation. The short turnaround time getting everybody in and out, we want to make sure the fans get in and out. We're sensitive to that as well as to the play of the game.
Some major issues we face. The 1:00 and 6:00 was easy. We played at 1:00 and 6:00. That was like a scroll. And there were times when we still ran into problems. So, let me put it this way, I hope to hit 8 and 10:00 at every time, but that's not going to happen, guys. So we'll just have to live with it.
Q. Commissioner Kallander, did you have any pangs of nostalgia when Arkansas and Baylor played since you're the keeper of the southwest conference?
KYLE KALLANDER: No, actually, I haven't. But we'll see what we can do about trying to get more licensing revenue for the old SWC.
I was at the Southwest Conference the last four years of the league, and happened to be the last one standing, I think, you and I, Bo.
Q. The world of electronics and the ability to govern and police, is that causing you any further difficulty? It's a broad question, but there are so many different ways people are communicating, sending information whether it's in the recruiting process or information that can or cannot be communicated during a competition or whatever in that sense?
DENNIS POPE: I am going to have Kevin answer this one. No, seriously, it's a changing of the times. Obviously, there's been a lot of discussion about females texting and all the various forms of electronic communication. And I know that's an issue that's being reviewed right now by the various groups that the association has.
So I don't mean to make fun of it but 75 years ago, they were worried about the new thing, the invention of the telephone. So how are we going to control it? The problem with it is there is something new every day, almost. So, again, that it's fair and equitable and everybody is treated the same way is the goal. However we get there, that will be the end result.
KYLE KALLANDER: We're all trying to keep up with it and figure it out, no question. But it creates some issues. In the Big South Conference we've been very aggressive in video streaming. I think we have over 900 events that we video stream, live events we video stream in the in the conference and a lot of those are baseball games.
We thought it was a big thing. It promoted baseball. We can see it. One of our coaches called and said, I don't like this, because we archive the game and they're still there, living on our website. Any coach can come in and scout my team because all of these games are on the website.
So those are the kind of things that you've got to start thinking about. Not only are we trying to promote, get exposure, and do what we can for our programs, but what kind of competitive issues are out there in that regard? So that goes to what you're saying. So we'll have to think about how that's going to work moving forward.
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