Baseball coaches trumped by WAC presidents

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

After a year of experimenting with a four-game conference series, the Western Athletic Conference baseball coaches voted to return to a more traditional three-game series.

Not so fast, said the league presidents. The WAC presidents overturned the vote by the coaches and athletic directors earlier this week. At least for the 2009 season, the WAC will again play four-game conference series.

According to Jeff Hurd, the senior associate commissioner of the WAC, league presidents were concerned about out-of-class time and the cost of playing six "new" games to replace the six games lost by going to a three-game conference series.

"I'm disappointed by the decision," Nevada coach Gary Powers said. "It wasn't that important. It was decided by coaches and administrators. It's our primary jobs. The Fresno State president didn't want it and made a big deal of it. It was a power play on his part. If it was a such a big thing, why aren't more conferences doing it (four-game series).

"It costs us a chance to play anywhere from three to six of those games at home and generate more revenue. It's hard on the players. After the season was over, they told me they were physically and mentally drained on those days. With doubleheaders, fan interest decreased in the second game of a doubleheader. It's hard to ask a fan to watch a game for three hours, sit around for 45 minutes (the break between games) and then watch for three more hours."

San Jose State coach Sam Piraro agreed.

"The presidents can do anything they want, and I respect that," Piraro said. "There were a lot of thoughts on why we wanted to get rid of the doubleheader and go to single games. It's a long day for everybody. We've talked to umpires, our own players and I even talked to a few of our fans.

"Coaches can do it anyway they want. What I was going to do was play two or three times in the fall and play less in the spring. We'll play junior colleges. It's a good recruiting tool."

Piraro said he wouldn't want to play four conference games in four days because of the class time that would be missed. Save for Fresno State and Nevada, he would have to leave on a Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for most trips.

San Jose State, New Mexico State, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech have four-year schools within four hours. Nevada and Hawaii are different in different ways. Nevada has several schools within three to five hours, but oftentimes the schools can't get over the mountain because of road conditions. Obviously Hawaii is on an island and has to fly everywhere.

Hawaii tries to play non-conference games while they are on the mainland for a conference series. For instance, if Hawaii plays at San Jose State, it's not uncommon to see them play Santa Clara, the University of San Francisco, California or Stanford early in the week.

The problem with that is that the student-athletes are out of class sometimes for an entire week. Not exactly what administrators want to see.

Nevada's closest non-conference opponents would be Saint Mary's, Pacific, UC Davis, Cal and Stanford. Nevada already plays a series against Saint Mary's every year and usually plays one or two games against UC Davis.

The other alternative for Nevada is to fly to a warmer climate, which means more money, or, god forbid, bus to UNLV. The in-state rivals played just two single games against each other last year, and that's not enough. Heck, I think they should play a home-and-home every season.

New Mexico State is within driving distance of New Mexico and UTEP. Louisiana Tech is a short bus ride away from Louisiana-Monroe, Grambling State, University of New Orleans and McNeese State to name a few.

Powers said all of this problem is a result of the NCAA starting the season 13 weeks later than in the past because college coaches in the North and Northeast felt they were at a disadvantage against the warm-weather schools.

That plan backfired. The warm-weather schools still had more depth and could handle more games in a shorter span of time.

- Contact Darrell Moody@dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or (775) 881-1281

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