College football is the flagship of the NCAA sports world and college basketball, with March Madness and the Final Four, follows closely behind. Some sports fans view college baseball as the red-headed step-child of NCAA big board sports, but this view is outdated and the perspective could not be further from the truth. College baseball’s popularity and significance is constantly growing for many reasons and, in recent years, the sport has seen a surge in mainstream attention.
Baseball season overlaps with basketball season but those closed basketball arenas do not allow you to enjoy the beautiful springtime weather. NCAA college basketball also ends in April, but following NCAA baseball can extend your collegiate sports engagement through the month of June. College baseball’s schedule coincides perfectly with the comfortably cool warm air and clear skies of the spring in just about every geographic region.
Regionals Through CWS
The NCAA college baseball post-season system is more balanced and closer to a true meritocracy than college football’s flawed BCS system. The NCAA regionals, super regionals, and College World Series are the pinnacle of sports excellence, allowing any of the 64 teams in the field a shot at college baseball’s highest achievement.
Are you a booster of your college’s athletics foundation or just a die-hard fan? College baseball lets show your support and proudly wear your school’s colors to games in April and May, and possibly June if your team advances through the NCAA post-season gauntlet.
It’s common knowledge that top football talents at major programs often take on less laborious courses of study than the overall student population – think general studies and communications. Look at the player bios of even the best college baseball teams in the country and more often than not you will find a good number of student-athletes studying hard sciences and business.
The post-season structure of NCAA baseball allows for a broad level of geographical access to post-season play, minimizing travel expenses and maximizing local support. Having regionals and super regionals spread across the country ensures that nearly everyone has access to the “playoff system” and the centralized location of Omaha is far more travel friendly than having to go to the far corners of the United States for championship play.
In the 1990s, the big bats dominated college baseball with homeruns driving the scores up resulting in the term “gorilla ball” being used to describe the style of play that dominated the NCAA ranks. Although the mid-2000s saw a surge in “small ball” play from the California schools, the SEC has once again brought back the high scoring affairs. Let’s be honest here: it’s fun to watch homeruns.
David Versus Goliath
College football is dominated by the big boys: the University of Alabama, the LSU Tigers, the USC Trojans, the University of Florida, the University of Texas. Has a school like Rice University played for a college football national championship in the modern era? A look at the College World Series Champions since 1990 reveals a very different picture. Rice won the College World Series in 2003 by topping Stanford, marking the third time in four years that Stanford had been the College World Series runner-up. When is the last time academic schools like Rice and Stanford competed for national championships in football or basketball? Those kind of stories are reserved for pre-WW2 college football folklore. Other schools that are not traditionally known for their athletic prowess have claimed the top prize in college baseball including Pepperdine’s national championship team in 1992, Cal State Fullerton winning College World Series in 1995 and 2004, and the 2008 Fresno State squad that won the College World Series.
Even though college baseball is known for small-time athletic programs climbing to the top echelons of the sport, there is also a rich tradition that flows through programs like the University of Southern California, the University of Texas, and LSU. These teams have historically won many titles and their fan bases take great pride in those accolades. Conversely, attending a baseball game at Tulane or Rice reveals rabid sports fans that you would not imagine those schools having if you only judged them by their football and basketball programs.
College football and basketball games can often be costly to attend, particularly if you want the best seats, due to demand and the costs associated with running those programs. College baseball tickets, however, can usually be had for the price of a movie ticket, making the sport very friendly to families on a budget.
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