Thursday, November 15, 2007
RT STAFF note: The list of NLI's from our readers and other sources are pouring in and WOW...it's a daunting task to put all that info together. What were we thinking? But as promised, that list will be available in chunks starting tomorrow. In the meantime, we have a few issues to get off of our chest. Enjoy and Comment.
As we scoured the nations newspapers looking for news on players that may have slipped our web of contacts, we noticed that 95% of newspapers nationwide did not cover or mention any baseball National Letter of Intent signings. Those same newspapers did announce basketball NLI's. This isn't new and it's been done this way for years because baseball is not considered a revenue generating sport like basketball and football. But as the true American Pastime, the sport deserves better.
The good news is...we see a change in the making as it relates to baseball as a revenue sport. The past few years have seen more national TV coverage of college from ESPNU and Fox. The much publicized hiring of George Horton at Oregon had the same feel and excitement of the hiring of a major college basketball or football coach. With help from Nike's Phil Knight, watch out for the Pac 10 and the rest of college baseball to change the nations perception of the college game.
But even now, baseball IS a revenue generating sport in many SEC and Big 12 south schools. Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi St, Wichita St., Oklahoma St., Nebraska, Arizona St, LSU (Who leads the nation in baseball attendance and sell-outs), Baylor, Rice, South Carolina, Fresno St. to name a few, are all profitable college baseball programs. When Rice built it's new stadium, it's attendance doubled. Nebraska averages well over 3,000 fans a game.
According to an article in 2006 from SECsports.com, "the SEC broke an attendance record in it's 12 SEC ballparks by drawing over 1.5 million fans. The SEC has drawn over one million in paid attendance for five straight seasons. No other conference has ever drawn a million or more fans to its baseball stadiums during a single season. During the 2005 season, for the first time in college baseball history, two schools (Ole Miss and Mississippi State) had on-campus crowds of over 10,000 fans for a regular season game on the same day. The largest on-campus crowd in the country so far in 2006, over 13,000, witnessed Georgia at Mississippi State on April 8. The 2006 SEC Baseball Tournament, held in Hoover, Ala., drew over 100,000 for the 3rd time in the last four years. Nearly 10,000 fans were in attendance to the see championship game between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt."
We encourage more influential people like Phil Knight to propel college and high school baseball as a revenue generating sport for the rest of the country, outside the SEC, Big 12 and several Western state schools.
But, for that to happen, we need to see more top round draftable players opt for college and play for their state or area school, get an education, and not just disappear into the minor league system for three-four years. If players would opt for college, we as fans can continue to follow them via the growing number of broadcast options available to us such as ESPN, FOX, CSTV and others. And, as more top prospects enter college, the competition would start to mimic the minors. In addition, the summer leagues in Cape Cod, Northwoods, Coastal Carolina, Alaska, etc. would play an even more important role in the development of future pro prospects. Plus, did we mention that these players could get a meaningful, life altering, career boosting, brain stimulating, college education?
As you can tell, we love college and college sports in general. Wouldn't it be nice to hear Fox's Joe Buck or ESPN's Jon Miller introduce MLB players as a product of their college, like they do in football and basketball? Wouldn't you like to see more pages dedicated in sport magazines and newspapers to collegiate baseball? We would too. Here's a start. Call your local newspaper and tell them to announce the baseball NLI signings. So what, it's not baseball season...these high school baseball players worked hard to sign that life changing piece of paper and they should be recognized as well.