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College Baseball Making More Progress

Notebook

What’s Covered:

• Expanded Replay Coming?
• SEC Looks To Quicken Replay Process
• College Baseball Close To Adding Third Paid Assistant

OMAHA, Neb. — Questions were abound the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. College baseball fans wanted to know why there wasn’t instant replay. After all, the super regional round has instant replay, albeit it’s limited to only a few circumstances.

While the addition of instant replay in the regional round doesn’t have a specific time table, fans and coaches alike can sleep easier knowing Anthony Holman, the Director of Baseball Championships, expects movement in regards to that topic in the near future, he announced at the annual State of Baseball press conference.

“There will be discussions on that this summer for sure about the rules committee moving replay reviews to the regional round,” Holman said during today’s State of Baseball press conference. “We have to consider some things, though, like is the regional site setup for something like that, what the timeline at that site looks like, and things like that.

“Certainly, it’s something that’ll be explored,” he continued. “And, I’d anticipate some movement on that.”

Some members of the Division I Baseball Committee believe movement could come as soon as the 2019 campaign. If the committee and NCAA want to get something done, it typically happens, and sometimes sooner rather than later. Former committee chairman Scott Sidwell spent the last year or so campaigning to seed the national seeds 1-16. A summer later, he got exactly what he wanted, much to the approval of everyone around college baseball.

Expanding replay to the regional round is just one prong to this discussion.

The other prong is how the instant replay is used and for which plays it’s used. Currently, coaches around the sport who were in the NCAA tournament feel like instant replay doesn’t encompass enough scenarios. To combat that, some have suggested using the Southeastern Conference model that was instituted on an experimental basis this season.

For conference games only, the SEC only allowed expanded replay. The umpire crew could call for a play review in the eighth and ninth innings of a full game, while each head coach was allowed two challenges per game. You got two challenges no matter what — even if you won the appeal. Of course, while this addition could work for the NCAA tournament, it’s hard to imagine this cascading down to some smaller leagues that may not have the staff and financial means to accomplish the goal. But again, getting the calls right in the NCAA tourney is important.

Craig Keilitz, Kevin Lennon, Anthony Holman and Ray Tanner

The SEC is ready to take instant replay to another level.

This year, umpires huddled, then headed to a video room behind a dugout or somewhere around the stadium to review the play. Often times, the review would take 4-6 minutes, which obviously isn’t optimal to the fans, players or coaches. So, to combat that, the SEC is prepared to implement a system where it has a central command center in Birmingham, Ala., reviewing all plays.

With the new command center, which the SEC hopes the NCAA will approve for use in July, the center could buzz in to the umpires to review a play. But in the event a coach challenges a play, the center would have a chance to review the play a couple of times before the umpires would have a chance to break the huddle. The umpires would not need to leave the field of play. Instead, they’d get direction on the call on the field via a communication device.

“I like it. I think the bottom line is that you just want to get the call right,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “There are a couple of things that need to be tweaked, because it does slow the game down. You probably need someone [like a command center] making the final decision. But I like it.”

South Carolina athletic director and committee chairman Ray Tanner also loves the idea.

“Well, I think if you’re going to do it the right way, it makes sense. That way, the umpires don’t have to run into the tunnel. They’ll just stay on the field, and by the time they get on the phone, the play is already being looked at,” Tanner said. “They will have already looked at the play a few times before the request is made.

“At the end of the day, you want to get the call right, but you don’t want to make games last longer,” he continued. “You want to get it right, and sometimes this season, the umpires just took too long in the tunnel looking at the play. I think it will be a very good thing.”

As for the NCAA postseason, a first step in the right direction would be applying instant replay to the regional round, while also expanding instant replay to include various other situations for both rounds.

But if the NCAA is in a giving mood , adding these SEC measures makes a lot of sense, too.

Adding A Third Paid Assistant

College baseball is closer than ever to adding a full-time, paid third assistant.

Under the current structure, the third assistant on the staff is a volunteer. Thus, while some earn a solid salary via camps and other avenues, they also aren’t allowed to receive full benefits in most instances. And most importantly, they aren’t allowed to recruit.

That all could soon change if the Southeastern Conference has its way, with the support of several other conferences. The league is set to put forth a proposal to the NCAA to add a third full-time assistant — both for baseball and softball.

The measure is expected to be voted on at the annual NCAA meetings by athletic directors and presidents in April of 2019, and some sources close to the situation feel optimistic about its ability to pass. There was some optimism surrounding this very topic last year, but the idea was tabled after football gained an extra assistant. That potential road block is no longer present.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle loves the idea of a third paid assistant. (Shotgun Spratling)

“We’re really excited about that, it’s much needed and I think it would really help our game,” ABCA Executive Director Craig Keilitz said. “We understand that quite a few programs will not get an opportunity to get a full-time assistant because they simply can’t fund it. And even though it might put some programs in position to have a coaching advantage, we owe it to our kids.”

While Keilitz made it clear some programs won’t have the ability to fund a third paid assistant, he added that a majority of Division I coaches are still in favor of it. Two years ago, Keilitz and the ABCA polled Division I coaches, with 88 percent saying they were in favor of adding a third coach.

At least one premier coach, TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle, is very much in favor of the proposal.

“College baseball is long overdue for an additional paid assistant for many reasons. We have the worst player to coach ratio in college athletics, and we do a very poor job of providing entry level jobs for young coaches that pay full-time salaries with full benefits,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Adding another coach will also improve the quality of life for other coaches, spreading the recruiting responsibilities among four coaches instead of three.

“We would still only be allowed to have three coaches on the road in the summer, so this addition would only one coach to always be on campus to serve the needs of the current student athletes and program.”

Division I Baseball Committee chairman Ray Tanner echoed Schlossnagle’s sentiments.

“We have 35 players on our team, and that roster is typically more than 35 in the fall. You need an extra coach,” Tanner said. “It’s very important for our game and the student-athlete experience.

“You go back in time to when I started, I was a graduate assistant and our head coach had two grad assistants. We were developing coaches, and we kind of lost that to a great extent,” he continued. “To take a volunteer position and turn it into a full-time position, it gives us an opportunity to go back and develop more coaches to take the place of guys leaving the game. I really hope this becomes a reality.”

We’ll continue to cover the progress of this proposal.

For now, something college coaches have wanted for a long time is closer to becoming reality.

That’s progress.

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