First, a quick apology for what you’re about to read.
This is going to be a rant about the NCAA. The organization contains many good people — no, really, it does — but it does many wrongheaded things. That makes the NCAA an easy target, a willing punching bag for columnists and bloggers and generally cheesed off college sports fans the world over.
The topic for today folks is going to be baseball. More specifically, the baseball regional. Even more specifically, the way the NCAA runs its baseball regionals (and super regionals).
LSU, as you have probably surmised by now (you’re a clever bunch) is hosting an NCAA baseball regional for the umpteenth time. Actually, it’s the 24th time since 1986, a mighty impressive figure.
As the host team, you’re naturally going to have some home-field advantages. You have the vast majority of fans. You know how the wind plays and that confounding ground rule that comes into play when a ball lodges under one of the bullpen benches (Don’t touch it!!!).
Notice I wrote some home-field advantages. Not all. Because the NCAA must stick its politically correct nose into the equation and try to level what is by nature a playing field tilted toward the home team.
LSU was the visiting team for Monday night’s game against Rice. The visiting team. In Baton Rouge, not Houston. In Alex Box Stadium, not Reckling Park.
The Tigers had to bat first. They had to occupy the third-base visitor’s dugout. They had to vacate their clubhouse behind the first-base dugout after the completion of Monday’s earlier elimination game between Rice and Southeastern Louisiana, and were only to be allowed back in during the game in the event of yet another (no, please, no) weather delay.
If a second regional championship game were required Tuesday, LSU would again be the home team. And in a super regional, in case you’re scoring at home, the host school is the home team, then the visitor, then the host again.
Admittedly, this is not new information. LSU has been giving up pieces of its home-field advantage for parts of regionals for decades.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t any less galling. Or any less wrong.
LSU, like the other 15 regional hosts, like the other seven national seeds, earned its home-field advantage through the first two stages of the NCAA tournament. They earned it by winning a lot of games against strong competition. And the NCAA trying to rule book its way to taking some of that away is wrong.
Thirty years ago, the NCAA decided against letting teams play on their home court in the men’s basketball tournament. LSU was one of the last eight schools to do so, in 1986, two games in the Assembly Center serving as a launching pad to the Final Four.
If the NCAA wants to go to all neutral sites for baseball, fine. That doesn’t make financial sense, of course. In a business sense, the NCAA wants to have its gate receipts and its concessions, too.
Imagine, if you will, a major league playoff game at Yankee Stadium (well, maybe not this year). The Yankees are the home team in game one of the series, but the Kansas City Royals get to be the home team in game two.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? There would be a major revolt. It would make the designated hitter controversy seem like a dispute over trading cards. It’s just not the way the business of baseball should be done.
Same goes for college baseball. If you’ve earned home-field advantage, you’ve earned all of it all of the time.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.