By Greg Johnson
The Division I Baseball Committee is examining the possibility of seeding up to 16 teams for future championships.
Currently, the committee seeds eight teams in the 64-team field. Committee members believe that expanding the seeding to 16 teams could improve the overall competitive equity of the bracket.
Under NCAA championship rules, the committee can seed up to 25 percent of the field. Committee members have asked NCAA staff to look at whether the change would add costs to the championship’s budget. NCAA staff will report back to the committee at its November meeting regarding the 16-seed concept.
The Division I Baseball Championship would still have 16 regional sites where teams are seeded 1-4 and play in a double-elimination format. The winners advance to one of the eight super regionals, which are contested in a best-of-three format, the following week. Those winners advance to the Men’s College World Series in Omaha.
If the committee decides to seed 16 teams, it believes the round that would see the most impact would be the super regionals.
“We would have a better chance of the No. 1 seed in the tournament potentially playing the 16 seed in the super regionals rather than having the No. 1 seed potentially playing the No. 9 or No. 10 seed in a super regional,” said Kyle Kallander, committee chair and commissioner of the Big South Conference.
Since the committee doesn’t seed beyond eight teams, there is no distinction for the other eight teams that go through a bidding process in hopes of hosting a regional. Those programs are generally thought to be the Nos. 9-16 teams in the field, but they aren’t put into the bracket in seeding order.
One bracketing principle the committee must follow is separating top-seeded regional teams from the same conference. This ensures that those teams cannot meet in a super regional.
“We want to keep the principle in place,” Kallander said. “We want to evaluate what potential impact and how many times we’d have to avoid breaking that principle. In order to keep the integrity of the bracket, we need to look at those kinds of issues.”
Committee members don’t expect that the financial impact will be an obstacle should they decide to seed 16 teams in the future.
“We’re already flying teams to most of the super regionals anyway,” Kallander said. “So the potential for additional costs could be fairly minimal.”
Committee members also agreed at their annual meeting that the revised rating-percentage index formula for Division I baseball will be used in 2013. It will value each road victory as 1.3 instead of 1.0. Each home win will be valued at 0.7 instead of 1.0. Conversely, each home loss will count 1.3 against a team’s RPI and each road loss will count 0.7 against a team. Neutral-site games will remain the same value of 1.0.
The weighting is based on statistical trends that home teams win about 62 percent of the time in Division I baseball. This is similar to the changes made in Division I men’s and women’s basketball in which road wins are weighted as 1.4 and home victories are weighted at 0.6. That was based on statistical data that consistently showed home teams in Division I basketball winning about two-thirds of the time.
The baseball committee decided to make the changes because of the discrepancy in the number of home games teams play. Some schools are able to play 35-40 of their 56 allowable games at home, while other teams, due to factors such as weather, may play only 20 home games.
Unlike the past RPI formula, no bonuses are awarded. However, teams will be penalized in the RPI for playing more than four non-Division I opponents during the season or for losing to a non-Division I opponent.
The committee also discussed the agent issue in regard to how a definition adopted in January applies to college baseball.
The new definition states that an agent is any individual who, directly or indirectly:
An agent may include a certified contract advisor, financial advisor, marketing representative, brand manager or anyone who is employed or associated with such persons.
Division I Baseball Committee members believe their sport is in a unique position since the Major League Baseball draft includes high school players who are also prospective student-athletes and players who have been at a four-year college or university for three years.
If they are drafted, they seek financial advisors who can offer advice on whether a club’s offer aligns with the going rate within the industry.
“We want the student-athletes to get the best information they can have to make the most educated decisions,” Kallander said. “Baseball is unique in that you don’t declare for the draft. You may not even know you are getting drafted until it happens. It’s a difficult issue. Are there ways we can evaluate the relationships with agents to make it fair for them to make the best decisions?”
Committee members also reviewed a concept from the Big Ten Conference and Mid-American Conference that describes a framework in which teams could “opt-in” to play up to 14 of their 56 allowable games in the fall.
The idea is to allow northern teams the opportunity to play countable home games in better weather at the beginning of the season. Other benefits include the ability to play more home games overall, minimize travel costs, build a fan base and create additional revenue opportunities.
Currently, the championship season begins in mid-February, which causes most northern teams to play about 20 games on the road at the beginning of the season.
Committee members came to no conclusions on the subject but will continue to review ideas that deal with championship format and selection criteria.