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College : : Story
ABCA convention rewind
Published: Wednesday, January 09, 2013

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CHICAGO -- Contrary to a popular belief, there are plenty of instances throughout the years when the NCAA has heeded the cries and calls from student-athletes, fans and coaches alike.

In college baseball, there's no greater debate than that of the relationship between an advisor/agent and a student-athlete or prospective student-athlete. As it stands right now, neither party is permitted to have official representation when it comes to the MLB draft. However, at least some rules pertaining to that could soon change.

Just last year at the ABCA Convention in Anaheim, Calif., NCAA director of football and baseball Dennis Poppe raised some eyebrows when he discussed potential agent-advisor relationship changes, and actually endorsed widespread reform, citing the fact as a parent himself, he can see why there's a need for official representation in a non opt-in draft.

Poppe and NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon seemed to take the torch for reform another step at this year's convention.

"Having been involved with this discussion with the leadership council, the fact that a young man can be drafted without knowing when or if he'll be drafted, there's a sensitivity to it," Poppe said. "The main reason there was no action before is there was a one size fits all standard. But there's now a willingness to see differences with sports such as hockey and baseball, which have different draft standards.
"There's a need on the part of us baseball folks to change things, but whether they [leadership council] approve it or not, is another story."
-- NCAA's Dennis Poppe

"There's a need on the part of us baseball folks to change things, but whether they [leadership council] approve it or not, is another story. Those of us in baseball feel it should be considered, though. Frankly, it just makes sense."

Before everyone gets ecstatic, it must be noted that there's at least one caveat to the proposal Lennon and Poppe are putting together to the NCAA Leadership Council, the new rules would only pertain to prospective student-athletes, not current student-athletes.

For instance, when Oklahoma State's Andy Oliver and Kentucky's James Paxton were deemed ineligible by the advisor-agent rule a few seasons ago, they would still be bound by the same rules should the newest proposal pass through.

"This is for prospect student-athletes, those in high school or in the junior college ranks," Lennon said. "In this case, they might be able to have agents and advisors allowed in negotiations. We're prepared to put forth this idea for the council to consider."

A swift change of opinion on the agent-advisor relationship was only the tip of the iceberg for Lennon and the NCAA at the convention, as they also announced the NCAA is in the midst of some significant deregulation across the board, putting more of the responsibility regarding NCAA rules and regulations on member institutions.

"At least it's a step in the right direction," Poppe said about the new agent-advisor proposal. "As Kevin indicated, it's part of the deregulation effect at the NCAA. It just seems more reasonable for some sports such as baseball."

Change is in the air in Indianapolis, Ind.


POSTSEASON UPDATE


Back in 2010, former NCAA Division I Selection Committee chairman Tim Weiser discussed proposals for a new postseason format. Widely preferred by many Division I head coaches was a proposal to change the format from the current NCAA Regional/Super Regional setup to having three rounds of three-game series leading to the College World Series.

Weiser first brought up the idea in December '10, but the proposal hasn't seemed to gain much traction. As a matter of fact, the NCAA continues to be pleased with its current postseason setup.

"I think it's an if it isn't broke don't fix it type of mentality right now. Super Regionals continue to get more popular, and the CWS is always growing," Poppe said. "With that said, you can't sit still if you have something good. If that's the case [at some point] then lets enhance it."

There's plenty of good news to go around when it comes to the NCAA postseason. The ESPN platform of networks, including the online-streaming based ESPN3, will televise up to 8-10 NCAA Regionals in 2013 and beyond. Also impressive is the fact the CWS television ratings once again were solid with South Carolina and Arizona's meeting in the CWS Championship Series earning an average of 1.5 million viewers per contest.

Other interesting news from the convention focuses on seeding and timing of the initial postseason announcement.

In terms of seeding, the NCAA Selection Committee has pondered the idea of seeding 1-16 instead of 1-8 in the past year. However, committee chairman Dennis Farrell said now is not the time to make changes to that setup.

"The committee has elected not to move forward at this point," Farrell said. "We have some concerns with how it could impact inter-conference matchups in NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals."

Good news for coaches with teams competing for conference tournament crowns on Sunday this year. Farrell disclosed that the initial NCAA postseason announcement, usually broadcasted during the SEC tournament title game on Sunday afternoon, has been moved back from 3:30 p.m., eastern, to 9 p.m., eastern.


POTENTIAL TD AMERITRADE PARK CHANGES


Through the first two College World Series played at the new TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., power production has significantly reduced. Through 14 games at the 2010 CWS, the last held at Rosenblatt Stadium, there had been 32 home runs hit. By comparison, in '11, just seven homers had been hit through 12 games.

There wasn't much power production at the '12 CWS, but there are some reasons for that. For instance, one must look at the new BBCOR bat and its reduced power as the chief reason for limited power production. But also important, it must be noted that Rosenblatt Stadium faced Southwest to Northeast (home plate due SW), giving the stadium a hitter friendly feel with often a stiff south breeze. By contrast, TD Ameritrade faces Northwest to Southeast (home plate NW).

The lack of power production in Omaha the last two seasons has caused many head coaches attending the event to propose moving the fences in a few feet. However, as of now, the NCAA has no plans of doing so, though that could change over the next few seasons.

"We're not making any changes at this time," NCAA Director of Baseball Dennis Poppe said. "You let everything happen for three or four years. I'm not saying it won't happen, but not for now."

It's now a waiting game for those who love power production.


JUST A HEADS UP ...

It's already old news as the NCAA passed new legislation last year to amend the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) formula, but the new change, which is expected to have widespread ramifications on college baseball teams in the northern part of the country, was reiterated by Dennis Farrell, chairman of the Division I Baseball Committee.

"The RPI is just a tool, though it's a very important tool. However, it must be remembered that it's not the sole tole when it comes to the NCAA postseason," Farrell said. "It's [the new RPI formula] a benefit to those teams who have to open the season on the road."

As a refresher course for the new RPI formula, the new equation calls for 1.3 points for a road win, 0.7 points for a road loss, while teams playing at home only will receive 0.7 points for a home win, while they'll get docked 1.3 points for a home loss. This equation, of course, as Farrell suggested, will benefit those clubs that spend much of the early part of the season on the road, while those staying at home for all of non-conference will, in theory, encounter a lower RPI.

For example, in an NCAA release last season, based on the final 2011 RPI rankings, some teams would've seen some significant changes with the new formula. Gonzaga, for instance, finished the '11 campaign 74 in the current RPI. However, the new RPI would've resulted in an RPI of 55, a 19-point increase. Also worth noting, Michigan State would've been 63 instead of 83 to end the '11 season.

On the flip side, Ole Miss finished '11 with an RPI of 39, but would've finished 48 under the new RPI formula. TCU is another example, finishing 19 in the RPI in '11, 29 if the new RPI formula had been applied.

It's tough to gauge the overall ramifications of the new formula until there's a complete season, but two things are for sure: Those teams playing a lot of road games early in the season will see great benefits, while clubs playing (and losing) a lot of early home games will take a significant hit.


MORE PROPOSALS TO WATCH

* In one of the more interesting developments in Chicago, my interest was piqued by a closed-door meeting between Big Ten and Mid-American Conference coaches, along with at least a couple of other regional representatives, such as San Diego head coach Rich Hill. The discussion? The potential of having fall contests count on your official record and in the RPI formula.

The idea, which was proposed by Purdue coach Doug Schreiber, certainly has gained traction with coaches in the northern half of the country. Those coaches believe playing some games in the fall with better weather could result in more wins and better preparation for the spring. However, at least some head coaches we talked to are concerned about the possibility of some coaches putting together their fall schedules to cater to their strengths. For instance, a team scheduling one fall game a week for three weeks, throwing their staff ace in each of those contests.

Schreiber's proposal could gain traction with coaches in other regions of the country, but for now, it's just in the discussion stages from the NCAA's standpoint, with some concerns attached.

"The committee is not prepared to move forward on this issue," Farrell said. "Again, though, we would like encourage discussion on the matter."

* Clemson coach Jack Leggett has been around college baseball for a long time, and usually isn't shy about his opinions on important matters. Just a few years ago at a convention, Leggett had a lengthy speech on the universal start date.

Well, he has a new cause, and it's one that began this fall and focuses on the actual baseball used in games. In essence, Leggett, and apparently plenty of other coaches, want a livelier ball in competition.

In college baseball, the coefficient of restitution (COR) of the ball may not exceed .555. However, in professional baseball, the COR can't exceed .578. Leggett is proposing college baseball adopt professional standards, opting for the flat-seam as opposed to the raised seams currently on competition balls.

ABCA executive director Dave Keilitz said at the convention 86 percent of coaches surveyed last year were in favor of the BBCOR bats. As for a proposed new ball, 47 percent of coaches prefer a livelier ball, while 55 percent of coaches said they preferred the flat-seam over the raised seam currently used.

"The bat at this point is a non-issue, it isn't going to change," Keilitz said. "As for changing the ball, factors are how does this affect our game, the legal issues involved because of bat contracts with various companies, liability issues, cost issues and the ball itself."

Keilitz plans to put the idea of a new ball in the court of the NCAA rules committee next summer. Stay tuned.


AND THE COMMITTEE IS ...


The 10-member Division I NCAA Selection Committee is the most important body overlooking college baseball, as it decides the national seeds, NCAA Regional hosts, NCAA Super Regional hosts, and most importantly, the postseason field of 64.

The 2013 committee includes:

Dennis Farrell, Big West (Chairman)
Ed Scott, Binghamton
David Hickey, Central Michigan
Robert Goodman, Colonial Athletic Association
Larry Gallo, North Carolina
Rick Greenspan, Rice
Joel Erdmann, South Alabama
Eric Hyman, Texas A&M
Mark LaBarbera, Valparaiso
Randy Buhr, Washington State


ABCA NOTEBOOK


* Kent State made history last season by reaching the College World Series for the first time in school history. The Golden Flashes hope to build off that trip in 2013, and the supporting cast once again is solid. Flashes head coach Scott Stricklin is very excited about redshirt-sophomore right-handed pitcher Eric Dorsch. Dorsch will serve on the back end of the bullpen, and flourished this fall with a strong slider and a fastball in the 93-94 range. The most interesting aspect of Dorsch as a prospect is the fact he’s 6-foot-7, 235 pounds. Stricklin said Dorsch has a chance to be a Jeff Nelson-type of pitcher … In other Flashes news, electric second baseman Derek Toadvine will move to shortstop this spring, replacing departed shortstop Jimmy Rider.

* With a team loaded with talented freshmen, there’s no doubt it’s still a rebuilding process for the Tennessee Volunteers in the Southeastern Conference. However, the future certainly seems to be bright for Dave Serrano’s coaching staff. The Vols are very excited about junior college transfer Scott Price this spring. The imposing 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, had a very productive fall and will start in the infield for the Vols. Additionally, keep an eye on talented UT freshman infielder A.J. Simcox. Simcox, who we had ranked No. 136 out of high school, had a strong fall to cement a starting spot … In other Volunteers news, talented second baseman Will Maddox will move from second base to third base. Maddox batted .297 with two homers and 19 RBIs last season.

* Wright State is a consistent NCAA postseason contender, and once again has some intriguing arms to watch as the 2013 campaign nears. WSU coach Rob Cooper said to keep a very close eye on sophomore right-handed pitcher Travis Hissong. Hissong had an 8.49 ERA in 23 1/3 innings of work, but is looking to make a giant leap this spring. The talented righty has a very good arm, sitting 92-93 throughout fall workouts with a 6-foot, 188-pound frame.

* Duke first-year head coach Chris Pollard hopes to make a statement in 2013, and the Blue Devils have some intriguing players to watch. Blue Devils redshirt-sophomore infielder/outfielder Chris Marconcini missed last season with an injury, but really blossomed during fall workouts. Meanwhile, keep a close eye on talented junior right-handed pitcher Drew Van Orden. Van Orden had a 5.82 ERA in 34 innings last season.

* LSU has two of the nation’s elite right-handed pitchers in Ryan Eades and Aaron Nola. It’s Eades, though, who many feel should rise to the occasion this spring. Eades has a big-time arm, but was inconsistent at times last season, finishing the year with a 3.83 ERA in 94 innings of work. LSU coach Alan Dunn said Eades benefited from taking the summer off and showed off a smoother delivery, thanks to some mechanical changes. He also was more consistent and attacked the zone. Even despite his woes at times the last two seasons, Eades enters 2013 as one of the nation’s elite MLB draft prospects.

* If you’re looking for a good breakout player for the 2013 campaign, look no further than Vanderbilt sophomore right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede. Beede was just OK as a freshman last season, but had a strong fall and looks to have a sensational spring. Beede was consistently in the mid 90s with his fastball during the fall with good command. Additionally, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, hit the weight room hard, and as a result, continues to develop physically in impressive fashion.

* Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell couldn’t say enough nice things about the Cardinals for the upcoming season. McDonnell feels like the leadership and experience with the ’13 Cards will be the big difference versus previous clubs. As a matter of fact, McDonnell said this year’s Cardinals club could be the best he has fielded. If that’s the case with big-time arms such as Nick Burdi leading the way, it's safe to say to watch out.

* Miami coach Jim Morris is excited about the upcoming campaign for the Hurricanes. Though Miami struggled a bit offensively last season, he has high hopes for this year's club. Talented freshman infielder Alexander Hernandez blossomed the past few months, the fall MVP in Morris' eyes. First baseman David Thompson, another freshman, is expected to provide a big-time bat, while the same could be said about 6-foot-4, 200-pound, outfielder Grant Heyman ... Also huge for the Hurricanes is the return of talented pitchers Andrew Suarez and Bryan Radziewski. Both pitchers dealt with injuries last season, but appear to be in line to make significant contributions this spring ... Lastly, from talking to Morris in Chicago, it seems like moving assistant coach Gino DiMare back to the recruiting coordinator role has created quite the buzz in South Florida and beyond. It'll be interesting to see how Miami capitalizes on this transition.

* Everyone needs to remember the name Sam Coonrod. The Southern Illinois talented right-handed pitcher had an outstanding summer, and followed that up with an even better fall. Coonrod had a 4.64 ERA in 64 innings of work last season, but has developed his repertoire since, while also adding velocity. SIU assistant coach P.J. Finigan said in Chicago that Coonrod was consistently 94-95 with his fastball during the fall, while also flashing a plus curve and slider. Coonrod won't be eligible for the MLB draft until 2014, but he's worth watching. Mark your calendars for Friday, March 22, as Coonrod faces off against Indiana State left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea.

* Liberty assistant coach Garrett Quinn is excited about the upcoming season for several reasons. In addition to the Flames fielding yet another solid club, they're also ushering in a newly-renovated ballpark that will be playable by the time the season begins. With that said, the Flames have some legitimate talent to work with this season, especially right-handed pitchers Kyle McKelvey and Josh Richardson. McKelvey, a freshman, is coming off an injury, but was well into the 90s during fall workouts. Richardson, who only pitched 1 1/13 innings last season because of an injury, also was well into the 90s.

* Virginia Tech is excited about its offensive lineup with the return of Chad Pinder, Andrew Rash, Mark Zagunis and Tyler Horan, among others. But most interesting about this club entering the spring is its pitching staff. Hokies assistant coach Pat Mason said senior left-handed pitcher Joe Mantiply had a productive fall, while newcomer, junior right-handed pitcher Brad Markey, who spent time at Georgia Tech, is expected to solidify the Saturday starting role. The Sunday spot could very well go to junior left-handed pitcher Eddie Campbell, who was well into the 90s during fall workouts.

* Stony Brook had a memorable 2012 campaign that ended with an improbable trip to the College World Series. Now, the Seawolves hope to build off that trip with a stable of young talent, including left-handed pitcher Daniel Zamora. SBU assistant coach Joe Pennucci said Zamora had a strong fall for the Seawolves. The California product, a 6-foot-3, 186-pounder, was consistently into the 90s during fall workouts.

* As usual, Kennesaw State enters the spring with a strong collection of talent, particularly on the mound. KSU assistant coach Derek Simmons said junior right-handed pitcher Travis Dean and Kevin McCoy had strong falls. Both Dean and McCoy were up to 95 during the fall. Also worth noting, keep an eye on sophomore catcher Max Pentecost. Pentecost was highly rated out of high school and finished last season with a .277 average and 23 RBIs. He had a strong fall and is expected to take a huge leap forward in '13.

* Tulane coach Rick Jones certainly believes his club has a chance to take a step forward this spring. First off, though, the Green Wave is very excited about the job assistant coach Jake Gautreau is doing on the recruiting trail. Gautreau has been very aggressive in the past few months, so he's an interesting name to watch as the next year progresses ... As for the team, keep an eye on freshman utility player Tim Yandel. Yandel had a strong fall and should be an immediate contributor. Meanwhile, right-handed pitcher Tony Rizzotti is the guy all the Green Wave coaches continue to rave about. Rizzotti didn't pitch last season at Grayson College because of an injury, but had a strong fall for the Green Wave, staying well into the 90s with his fastball.


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