Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inside a Coaches’ Committee Business Meeting

Ever wonder what happens when a bunch of coaches get together on a conference call? Well, Atlantic Sun Insider will give you a peek into the baseball coaches’ business meeting conducted via teleconference on Tuesday morning.

Prior to the call, some work goes into preparation. Coaches’ Committee Chair Jeff Forehand of Lipscomb works with his peers to collect agenda items for the call and shares them with A-Sun baseball liaison Matt Wilson. About a week out, all the coaches, Directors of Athletics (ADs) and Senior Woman Administrators (SWAs) from around the league get a copy of the agenda to prepare for the call.

On the day of the call, Commissioner Gumbart gave the group a brief welcome and acknowledged the recent announcement from UNF’s Hall of Fame coach Dusty Rhodes about his retirement at the conclusion of the 2010 season. After the pleasantries, we jumped right into the business of the day. Tony Thompson, the A-Sun’s Coordinator of Umpires gave a report on officiating issues and the conference office followed up by discussing policy changes that will affect baseball for the upcoming year. Most of those related to some one-year cost containment measures that will expire at the end of the season.

Among the big topics discussed included the baseball schedule and enhancing the conference championship.

Scheduling always presents a challenge in the sport as our institutions place a high priority on year-ending academic activities such as exams and graduation. As a result each school gets an opportunity to block one date and request a preference for a second date in the 12-week schedule. These issues make putting the schedule together a bit like playing Tetris … sometimes everything falls in place and sometimes you hit the reset button. Another unique feature of the A-Sun schedule is that since there are 11 schools, one team will have a bye each week during the season. These dates become rather difficult to fill especially as the calendar moves into April and May when other conferences are in full swing of league play.

While making scheduling a smoother and timelier process is always on the agenda, recent actions by the NCAA elicited some conversation as well. The Association has seen the schedule expand and contract as the group seeks to establish competitive equity, particularly between schools in warmer climates versus those in cooler climates. The basic idea is that the earlier the start date for baseball, the bigger the advantage for teams in the warmer climates. Due in large part to our geography and our commitment to academics, the A-Sun strongly supports an earlier start date. All of our schools can begin play in early February without a huge financial burden and by starting that early, mid-week games are cut down which in turn limits missed class time. Long story short, Conference USA introduced legislation last year to add a week to the season beginning in 2010 and it was approved and sustained by the Legislative Council in late July. As part of the governance structure in the NCAA an override can be petitioned for and granted if certain benchmarks are met. These benchmarks were achieved and the Association will vote on whether to overturn the legislation in January.

The conference championship will be held at Lipscomb this year, the first time that the event has reached Tennessee. A discussion about the amount of teams that should participate and some format issues ensued. I believe we are on the right track at this championship and it will be a great experience for the student-athletes and all our fans.

After bouncing around a few more NCAA issues ranging from bats to practice regulations, the committee finished their call with a discussion on the RPI. The elusive RPI is still a mystery to many, but under Commissioner Gumbart’s leadership, the A-Sun is looking for ways to enhance the RPI of each conference team regardless of sport with the final goal being to increase NCAA championship appearances and earn higher seeds once we get there.

That gives you a quick (or not so quick) peek at a conference coaches business meeting. I hope you have enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look. Leave a comment if you liked this sort of information as we try to figure out how best to utilize our blog.

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