USF Baseball has made an NCAA regional for the second consecutive year with a 35-20-1 record. Just a year removed from losing their head coach to South Carolina, their star shortstop and first-round pick Kevin Merrell, and practically their entire “A” bullpen to the MLB Draft, the Bulls returned to postseason play for the third time in four years after missing the NCAAs 12 straight years before that.
The 2018 team even had a chance to host a regional if everything broke right in the AAC Tournament, and they managed to leave Clearwater with the trophy. Except the team was never going to get that chance. The school let the May 18 deadline to place a bid to the NCAA pass without submitting an application.
This is shameful from the administration to not even give the team a chance to host. This would’ve been a chance to showcase their relatively new baseball complex, part of a $35 million remodel that began in 2010. (Before that, USF never would have been able to host a baseball regional at bare-bones Red McEwen Field.) The softball team hosted the Super Regional in 2012 on their way to the Women’s College World Series, but baseball wasn’t good enough until these last two seasons.
And the administration did nothing. Absolutely nothing. This team deserved better than what they got. They were a wild pitch away from going to the conference championship game. Junior catcher Tyler Dietrich was behind the dish for 487.1 of a possible 493.1 innings, including all 42 innings in the span of three days with two doubleheaders mixed in for good measure at the conference tournament. He gave his all for his team and teammates.
And you can’t cobble together an online form to give him a chance to play at home again this season?
The Bulls decision makers must have been sweating bullets last week, because if they had won the tournament they would have looked like fools by not submitting a bid. When The Daily Stampede asked USF for reasons why the school didn’t bid, they could only say “multiple factors go into the decision making process” without going into specifics.
The process is fairly simple, and the NCAA has guidelines to what they are looking for in a host:
1. Regional competition shall take place at on-campus sites or alternative sites approved by the Division I Baseball Committee.
2. The committee shall attempt to place regional tournaments so that maximum national balance can be obtained, preferably at least one regional in each of the five Division I baseball regions.
3. Prospective host institutions must submit a minimum financial guarantee of $50,000, which shall be 75 percent of the estimated net receipts as submitted on the hosting proposal (online proposed budget).
4. Once that guarantee is met, the committee shall consider the additional criteria as listed in Bylaw 126.96.36.199.1.
5. Lights are highly recommended at all prospective regional sites. These lights should meet the NCAA standards found by clicking on the “NCAA Broadcast Manual and Policies” link at www.ncaa.com/media.
6. The committee will consider previous crowd control and behavior of the prospective host institution.
It’s unclear what the determining factors were for USF to not place a bid, but the money they would have to spend was high up on the list of cons because this is a very cash-strapped athletic department. Some schools lose money hosting regionals, but not always: Stetson is already sold out for this weekend.
If you have a shot to host, not filling out the paperwork and guaranteeing $50k (much of which would be refunded via ticket sales) is unfair to the players that compete all year long. And keep in mind Stetson is sold out this weekend already. There isn’t a Power 5 school in America that would even consider not doing everything possible to host the tournament.
But apparently it’s OK in the Power 6.
It’s not like the Bulls resume is lacking. USF played five regional hosts (3-7 vs them), but took two-of-three from ECU who is hosting and finished 12th in RPI.
Two teams — NC State (19th) and Texas (22nd) — have worse RPIs than the Bulls, and another team —Coastal Carolina (17th) — is just one spot ahead of USF.
It’s unlikely the Bulls would have been picked without at least two more wins, but it doesn’t excuse the school from punting their chance of hosting.
So the best of luck to the Bulls in DeLand this weekend. They have earned their place, and the first season under Billy Mohl is a success no matter the result. And when they take the field, after having exceeded expectations all season long, they can truly say “nobody believes in us, let’s go shock the world!”
Because even their own athletic department didn’t believe in them.