A typical May afternoon in Minneapolis.
Well, not entirely, but one of the Big Ten's head baseball coaches has stated that the conference should consider its own unique scheduling format which, were it to actually take place, would render the conference's teams entirely ineligible for the NCAA's postseason.
Minnesota head baseball coach John Anderson, the winningest baseball coach in Big Ten history, feels that the current NCAA baseball season, which runs from February to June, gives schools in the South and West a distinct advantage over schools in the North and Midwest. Which, frankly, is entirely correct.
The Big Ten hasn't had a team make the College World Series since Michigan went in 1984. Yes, that is entirely correct; a major college athletics conference has gone 27 seasons without sending a team to Omaha. When looking at the teams which have made it to the College World Series in recent years, you start to really see what Coach Anderson is on to. Last year, three teams from the SEC, two from the ACC and BigXII, and one from the Pac 10 made the field of eight. The team whose campus is situated the furthest north of those eight squads? The Virginia Cavaliers. And the same dearth of northern teams could be observed in the College World Series before that, and before that, and before that, and so on.
This can be explained rather simply: SEC speed and Midwesterners being herp-derpy and PAWWWWLLLLL, right?
Well, yeah, that's a simple explanation, if not a provincial and all-around inaccurate one.
It's not that baseball as a sport isn't popular in the Midwest - the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, and Minnesota Twins are some of the most popular clubs in baseball - but it certainly isn't played as readily and enthusiastically by high school athletes as basketball or ice hockey. It's also not that Midwesterners aren't good at the sport, either. Hell, former Rebel ace and current St. Louis Cardinal Lance Lynn snubbed the schools of his native Indiana by taking an Ole Miss scholarship offer to play in the South.
Realistically, the only concrete explanation any of us can muster for the Big Ten's baseball ineptitude is the weather. People like baseball, high school athletes play it, but fan support and recruiting prowess are tough to build against the prospects of warmer weather elsewhere.
On the other side of that coin, the weather, and the impact it has on fans and high school athletes alike, can explain the Big Ten's fan support and dominance in college hockey. Of course it's a simplistic explanation, but it makes sense.
So could this proposed schedule change actually benefit the Big Ten? Well, not if NCAA championships are to be won. But, if they want to improve the quality of baseball played and drum up greater fan support for college baseball - something which isn't a bad idea, considering that several schools have begun to actually turn a profit on the sport - this may be a route to go. Personally, though, and for the sake of the sport, I would hate to see what would be essentially two college baseball seasons. I think that a fair compromise would actually be to move back the entire college baseball season a month. Instead of starting in mid-February, we all could start in mid-March, with the College World Series being sometime in July. I know that March can be nippy up around the Great Lakes, but it certainly can't be any worse than February.
Such wouldn't immediately turn the B1G into a baseball powerhouse, especially when the SEC, ACC, Texas, and Pac 12 are fielding teams as good as they are, but it could make college baseball much more popular in other parts of the country, something which I feel can only be good for the sport in the long run.
[Of note, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who have been to the CWS a few times in the past ten years, are now a member of the Big Ten, and would probably blow a gasket were they to be, due to the whims of their new conference mates, rendered entirely ineligible from the event.]