High-profile college baseball coaches are looking to change the layout of the game.
According to D1Baseball, five Power Five coaches are hoping to improve the financial outlook of NCAA baseball through a “New Baseball Model” that — if approved by Division I coaches and the NCAA — would be implemented for the 2022 season.
Budgetary concerns are at the forefront, as Furman and Bowling Green have both dropped their baseball programs since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 baseball season and has significantly impacted college budgets.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant economic turmoil has created a financial crisis for higher education,” the proposal reads, according to Baseball America. “The landscape of college athletics has changed. Implementing modernized business models has never been more important than today.
“In order for college baseball to survive, grow and thrive in uncertain times, we must make these necessary adjustments.”
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While the New Baseball Model is broken up into “Financial Sustainability, Academics and Student-Athlete Welfare,” the primary change is to shift the schedule back by about four weeks. The start of the season would move from mid-February to the third weekend of March, while the College World Series move from mid-June to mid-July.
The goal is to avoid cold weather that limits attendance and forces many teams to start the season completely on the road, while also avoiding a basketball season that takes up many college fans’ attention in February and March. D1Baseball reported that the proposal states that a Big Ten Conference or “competitive northern team” spent an average of $233,728 over the last five years on travel in the first four weeks of the season. In the last four weeks of the regular season, when conference play is underway, travel costs decrease to an average of $88,864. Warm-weather baseball programs also tend to see attendance increase later in the season.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and changing landscape of college athletics has created the need for the game of college baseball to self-audit and make adjustments,” the proposal states, according to Baseball America. “Almost all schools operate at a significant financial net loss because we start our season in February. The attendance data and inflated travel budgets prove that. College baseball is also losing valuable developmental time during one of the peak weather months for our sport.
“Our student-athletes should be developing on our campuses in June, especially with the amount of resources many institutions have invested into our programs. Our fans should be watching our student-athletes in our stadiums, and those revenue dollars should go to our athletic departments.
“We need to do what is best for the long-term health and growth of college baseball.”
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There have been previous attempts to move the college baseball season schedule. There are several difficulties, including student-athletes needing to stay on campus long after the semester ends, the MLB draft traditionally being held in June, and the prevalence of summer leagues that many college players participate in during the offseason.
“This isn’t the competitive equity proposal we have seen in previous years, and the coaches who have been working on this proposal do not need changes in order to have successful programs,” said University of Michigan head coach Erik Bakich, a member of the panel. “This is about the sustainability and growth of college baseball for the 2022 season and beyond. Universities and athletic departments across the country are facing a financial crisis, and our sport operates at a significant financial net loss amongst teams. That’s not a good combination.
“Regardless of geography, playing college baseball in February and early March does not make sense financially, academically and certainly not medically speaking. If college baseball realistically wants to increase scholarships or add another full-time coach at some point in the future, improving our fiscal bottom line is next step. If we do nothing, we may not like the decisions that will be made for us.”
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