November 30, 2009
With the decade winding down in just a matter of weeks, we've done our part in bringing you the best of the decade for several categories in college baseball. It doesn't stop now, though. In our latest best of the decade feature, we take an inside look at the biggest stories this decade.
10. George Horton leaves Cal State Fullerton for Oregon
With much of his family in Southern California and the fact he captured a national title at Cal State Fullerton in 2004, Horton caught everyone in the college baseball community off guard when he announced in September of '07 that he was leaving Fullerton for Oregon. The Ducks hadn't had a baseball program since the early 1980s and Horton felt the new scenery and program would be a great challenge. The move also came with a hefty pay increase. Still, his departure from the Titans still surprises me to this day.
9. Arizona State's Pat Murphy announces resignation
After spending 15 successful seasons with the Sun Devils, Murphy surprised everyone just over a week ago by announcing his resignation on a random Friday afternoon. There are plenty of theories as to why Murphy resigned his post with the Sun Devils. At any rate, though, his departure from ASU's program is a surprise and a huge story. It'll be very interesting to see whom ASU hires after the spring. But even more intriguing is the thought of where Murphy eventually will wind up.
8. College World Series title becomes best-of-three series
After years of having a one-game-decides-all title game broadcast on CBS, the NCAA finally wised up and implemented a CWS title series beginning in '03. The last title game featured Texas and South Carolina in '02. The first title series in '03 featured Rice and Stanford, and the Owls captured their first national title with a 2-1 series victory. There still are some timing issues with the title game, but it was a fantastic move for the CWS and college baseball in general. The primetime slots are maximizing exposure.
7. Legendary LSU coach Skip Bertman retires
One of the most famous coaches in college baseball history broke some hearts in southern Louisiana earlier this decade when he decided to retire after the '01 campaign. Bertman spent 18 years (1984-2001) with the program and guided LSU to five national titles in '91, '93, '96, '97 and lastly in '00. Bertman compiled an 870-330-3 (.724) in his career with the Tigers. Since his retirement, Bertman has served as athletic director for LSU and now is a fundraiser. His impact on LSU and the sport won't be forgotten.
6. Fresno State, a four-seed, wins the national title
What an amazing run the Bulldogs had two seasons ago. Fresno didn't put together a particularly impressive regular season resume and was forced to win the WAC tournament to make an NCAA regional. Fresno then won one of the nation's toughest regionals at Long Beach and had the tough chore of playing hard-hitting Arizona State in the Tempe Super Regional. The Bulldogs defeated the Devils in three games and continued their Cinderella story with a trip to Omaha. Fresno played fabulous baseball in the CWS and won the national title with a series win over Georgia. This team was amazing in the postseason and still finished the season with an RPI of 55. A miracle run, indeed.
5. Oregon State wins back-to-back national titles
Before this decade, the Beavers hadn't reached the CWS since the '52 season. Yeah, folks, that's a long time. OSU, though, made up for the hiatus in a big way. The Beavers were just glad to be in Omaha in '05, but their attitude was much different after that trip to Rosenblatt Stadium. Dallas Buck, Kevin Gunderson, Jonah Nickerson and others helped the Beavers shock the nation by winning their first national title in '06. The Beavers then made even more of an impression by finding a way to win the '07 title. OSU was one of the nation's best programs this decade for winning back-to-back national titles.
4. New transfer rule is implemented
Coaches at mid-major programs around the country breathed a sigh of relief when the NCAA announced the new transfer rule. As with football and basketball, full-scholarship sports (baseball is not full scholarship), the NCAA now has a rule that says that a player transferring from one four-year institution to another must sit out a year before he is eligible for competition. There are a couple of instances of hardships that have allowed players to immediately play, but that's far from the norm. The transfer rule has and will continue to benefit the smaller schools. It is a great change for college baseball.
3. Universal start date goes into effect
It wasn't too long ago that some programs began the season in January while others waited until late February to start the season. Those days are ever for good unless the NCAA decides to make another wild change in the future. Programs must now begin the season on the same day in February, allowing programs in the colder regions of the country to at least be somewhat as prepared as their southern and western counterparts. The implementation of the universal start date still has a plethora of critics, but it still is the right thing for college baseball. It also gives the sport a true opening day.
2. City of Omaha announces addition of new downtown stadium
It's the debate of all debates in college baseball. When the NCAA and City of Omaha announced the construction of a new home for the CWS, there was a collective grumble both in Omaha and from fans across the country. Rosenblatt Stadium represents tradition for the sport and building a downtown stadium still is viewed as almost sacrilegious to some people. Still, building a brand new 24,000-seat stadium in downtown Omaha represents the growth of the sport this decade. The sport has more exposure, more television time and is growing in popularity. Now it will have a beautiful new stadium to call home. I always will love Rosenblatt Stadium, but sometimes change is good. We can all hope this is the case.
1. NCAA inks long-term extension for CWS with City of Omaha
No matter your position on staying at Rosenblatt Stadium or moving to a new downtown stadium, most of us can at least agree that the CWS staying in Omaha is a good thing. There was speculation a couple years ago that cities such as Orlando, Indianapolis and Kansas City were interested in hosting the event. The NCAA, though, put that issue to bed by reaching an agreement with the City of Omaha to keep the event there through 2035. No matter what happens, Omaha always should be home to CWS. College baseball without Omaha never will sound right.