Fall baseball slate may be unwarranted

BY LES EAST

The Big Ten Conference baseball coaches seem to be crafting a solution in search of a problem.

Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia told The Associated Press on Monday that the league is gauging support for a proposal that would give baseball teams the option of playing nonconference games in the fall that would count during the spring season.

The idea is that schools in colder climates, which certainly includes the Big Ten, are at a disadvantage playing a “spring” season that begins in February.

Anyone who was in Alex Box Stadium on Saturday night knows the early part of the college baseball season isn’t played in baseball conditions down here, let alone in colder climates.

But the idea of playing part of the spring season in the fall seems to make less sense than playing in near-freezing temperatures.

Now, Traviolia said, the conference is explaining the concept to coaches around the country, and it’s not certain a proposal will be formally put forth to the NCAA, though that seems to be the goal.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri understands this issue as well as anyone, having coached more seasons in cold climates — at Air Force (seven seasons) and Notre Dame (12 seasons) — than warmer ones — at St. Thomas in Miami (six) and with the Tigers (six-plus).

“I readily understand the concerns that the northern coaches have,” Mainieri said. “But what happens in the early fall is totally different than what happens in the spring. It wouldn’t be an accurate assessment of the quality of teams.”

Purdue coach Doug Schreiber came up with the idea of playing fall nonconference games that would count in the spring so northern schools could play one or two home series in milder weather in September or October and eliminate one or two road series to the South or West in the winter.

Teams, regardless of geography, could have the option to play as many as 14 games from mid-September to late October and still be limited to 56 for the season.

If LSU were to play a dozen games in the fall, the midweek games in the spring would essentially vanish.

“Sacred Heart would not be able to come here,” Mainieri said, referring to the Tigers’ Wednesday night opponent that’s traveling from Fairfield, Conn., to the Box.

There are other inherent advantages and disadvantages that vary from school to school besides climate, such as financial resources and admission standards.

“Are they going to monitor our resources and say we can’t build Alex Box Stadium because other schools don’t have the resources to do that?” Mainieri asked.

The bottom line, Mainieri said, “is nothing is ever equal in life.”

“Sooner or later you quit making excuses and overcome your disadvantages,” Mainieri said, citing northern teams that have reached the College World Series. He named his 2002 Notre Dame team and two from last season: Kent State and, as much as it might have pained him, Stony Brook.