Good news came out of Indianapolis today as the NCAA will host two votes during their business sessions next week. Both votes are proposed overrides of votes that did not pass during their previous voting in August. The first is non-consequential for Michigan, but a collection of schools is still trying to get sand volleyball instated as a NCAA recognized sport.
The second override is a bigger issue and one that the University of Michigan is directly lobbying for, a change in the baseball schedule. Last year was the first attempt at the NCAA to have a universal starting date across all teams. The season was compacted to 13 weeks, with each team unable to play games until the last weekend of February. This was meant to give a fairer balance between southern and western schools who would start hosting games as early as January and northern schools who couldn't afford several road trips and couldn't host games (and still can't host games for the most part) until mid March.
The 13 week schedule did provide a bit more balance between teams, leading to a few more upsets from northern schools, but many of these were for the wrong reason. Packing 56 games into a 13 week period isn't easy. Teams, including baseball rich southern programs, had trouble finding enough pitching on their rosters to handle the rigorous schedule. With only 11.7 scholarships available, it's hard to get a pitching staff of more than 7-8 quality pitchers.
On top of this, baseball players were also missing quite a bit more class. The compacted schedule lead to many more midweek games. This involved more travel during the class week, and a strain on students' academics.
To fix these problems, the NCAA voted to add a 14th week to the season. There was a debate over where to add the week from the beginning. Southern power schools wanted the games added to the beginning of the season in February. Northern schools wanted the week added to the end of the season when academics wouldn't be affected, and so that they could play more home games and save on travel costs (both academic and financial).
In the end, the southern powers won. This season will start a week earlier, pushing the what-was season opening Big East-Big Ten Challenge into week two and leaving many northern schools scrambling to schedule trips to the south in February. Most schools that is.
The January 15th vote will need a 5/8th majority in order to override the rule. From the NCAA:
The Championships/Sport Management Cabinet opposed the legislation because it detracted from the competitive equity between northern and southern institutions.
The institutions that requested the override are all located in the North, including all 11 institutions in the Big Ten Conference. The institutions cited concerns about having to travel South to begin their seasons and incurring increased expenses for the programs and additional missed class time for student-athletes.
Many of the institutions calling for the override indicated they would an additional week at the end of the season, when spring classes are complete for many student-athletes.
The Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is split on the issue. Some members agree that the weather could put Northern schools at a disadvantage, but others believe that spreading the same number of contests over a shorter time (13 weeks) would likely mean more midweek contests and more missed class time. Others noted that a longer season, potentially including more travel, could take a physical toll on student-athletes. The SAAC will revisit the issue at its meeting next week before the override vote.
I find it weird that the SAAC is talking as if it a week at the front of the season or no week added at all. The statement about adding a week adding a physical toll on students also seems like a loaded statement. The southern schools have long had seasons over 14 weeks long and is it better to have students traveling more in a shorter period and missing classes than it is adding one extra weekend? I can't see that argument standing up so well.