College football can take a lesson from baseball, basketball

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

[6/16/05]

OXFORD – The announced crowd for the weekend’s NCAA Oxford Super Regional Series rang in at more than 26,000. The only reason that wasn’t three times that much is because every knick and corner of Oxford University Stadium had a body in it.

Seats had long been sold out. The left-field hill began filling with lawn chairs before 10 a.m. Under every tree, behind fences, nearly on the education building well beyond the left-field wall, people clamored for a view of the game. How else can one explain getting nearly 9,000 people into a stadium with a listed capacity of 3,500?

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

The reason is excitement. College baseball has it right.

As is the case with basketball, 64 teams are invited to dream of a trip to Omaha. After a grueling three-day stretch, the field is whittled down to the chosen 16.

The Super Regionals follow, another test of will and stamina over a three-day stretch, with the winner of each Super Regional advancing to Omaha, Neb., the mecca of college baseball.

Last year’s CWS champions, the Cal State Fullerton Titans, are out. Powerful Georgia Tech, the national No. 2 seed, is gone. Tulane, the No. 1 national seed, fought for its life to get out of their Super Regional against Rice.

The fact is, the games are decided on the field, just like they are decided on the court in basketball.

If this were football season, Tulane and Georgia Tech would have been annointed the top two teams in the country. A computer formula Einsten would have trouble deciphering decides which two teams belong on the national stage for the football championship game.

If this were football season, a team like Ole Miss, with its phenomenal record, would not have had a chance. A team like Tennessee, which beat Georgia Tech in two straight games, would have been left behind.

But thankfully, the baseball committee has it right.

There was some moaning and groaning in Oxford when the Rebels saw they would be matched up with Texas, a team with 50 wins and a baseball pedigree as thick as an encyclopedia. Many wondered why two teams with such great records would get matched up against one another in a Super Regional.

OK, so there’s small hiccups, but even Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said any team that has made it to the Super Regionals is quality. Besides, the Longhorns had to win three straight games in its own regional even to reach Oxford. Two of those wins came against Arkansas, a team Ole Miss swept.

NCAA Baseball has things dead-on. The nearly 9,000 that scaled the trees in center field at Swayze Field know it. The Longhorns and Rebels know it. Everyone knows it.

Everyon except the NCAA football bosses.

The Bowl Championship Series, a broken system designed to line the pockets of the power conferences, will continue to let a computer decide which is the best team in the country.

Meanwhile, on the baseball diamonds, a bunt by Ole Miss leadoff hitter Justin Henry or a moonshot home run off the bat of teammate Brian Pettway decides ultimately who will be champion.

It’s astonishing how college baseball has it so right, while college football has it so wrong.