The LSU Tigers released their 2011 schedule a few weeks ago, which features your typical 56 games (30 SEC and 26 OOC). The interesting part is that they will only leave Alex Box Stadium for two out of conference road games and one neutral site game at Zephyr Field in Metairie, LA. Is it good for College Baseball to have a marquee program play mostly home games? I thought we would take this time to see how different coaches around the country put together their respective schedules.
The first coach we checked in with was James Madison’s Spanky McFarland:
When making my schedule, the first thing I do is to try to anticipate what kind of team we are going to have. The younger and more inexperienced we are, the more home games and the softer the schedule. The thought is less travel will help out the younger guys, especially with academics as they will miss less class. Also, a softer early schedule may develop confidence and better prepare us for the conference schedule. In years where we have a lot of experience, I will try to play a hard early schedule, because I want to challenge them. I also realize that when you play a harder schedule it will have to be on the road, so we will miss more classes and older guys can handle this better. Once conference starts, our schedule is the same every year. Weekends are conference and mid week games are home and homes with other schools with in 3 hours. Under the system that we have to reach the NCAA Tournament, the big boys don’t have to travel, so why should they? I know to get Virginia or Va. Tech to play here, we have to play there twice. The big conferences , under our current R.P.I. system the power conferences can buy weak team mid week wins and use the strength in numbers to keep their R.P.I. numbers low for the NCAA bid.
Why would the big schools go play at good mid major programs, they have everything to lose and nothing to gain. The only way you will get the big schools to travel more would be to change the R.P.I. formula to reflect a bigger percentage on road wins. We have tried to get this voted in, but to no avail. I have suggested to change the NCAA bid process, by ranking the conferences by R.P.I. and assigning 7 bids to the top conference, 6 bids to the next 2 conferences, 5 bids to the next 2 conferences, 4 bids to the next 3, and 2 bids to the next 4, and 1 bid to all of the rest of the conferences. If you did something like that, it would encourage everyone to try to play better people, both at home and on the road. But again, under the current system, why would you worry about playing good mid week opponents, when you know, if you finish in the top 8 of your conference, you will get a bid.
Kentucky’s Gary Henderson said the following about how he schedules:
One of our goals each year when making our schedule is to challenge our team with quality non-conference opponents. Last year, our schedule was the seventh-toughest in the nation according to the RPI at the end of the regular season. Over the last three years, we have played some of the top teams in the nation both in and out of conference. We have played tough road non-conference games over the last few years, including Coastal Carolina, Louisville and Western Kentucky. This year, we have another challenging non-conference road schedule, traveling to play at College of Charleston, Louisville, WKU, as well as Rice and Houston in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park. When you are playing in the SEC it is important to get your kids ready for league play. It is also important for us to provide our fans with enough home dates to see our team and support the program before conference play begins.
New UNLV head coach Tim Chambers stated the following:
Our philosophy is that we try to play top-30 teams. I don’t think you can get better if you don’t play the top teams and you won’t have as good of an opportunity to get to a regional if you don’t play the top teams, so for RPI, we have to do it. Starting next year with Cal State Fullerton at home, we’re making a pretty good statement that we’re trying to play the best. Home or away it doesn’t matter, we’d like to get a return on it if we travel, but next year its Fullerton at home. We don’t mind hitting the road, we just want to play the top teams because I think that’s the only way you get better.
I like Spanky McFarland’s idea about each conference being slotted with having so many bids as some conferences in a season have over half of their conference making a NCAA appearance. We all know that the RPI is a major challenge, as the schools in the power conferences can pretty much stay home during the regular season, relying on their conference competition to drive up their RPI.
Where do you stand on this debate? Comment below.