College baseball’s Division II East Regional tournament started on Wednesday at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester and runs through Sunday. The Fisher Cats are in town for a home stand, too, so Manchester will be filled with baseball this weekend. May used to bring the crack of the bat to Durham, too. But college baseball was eliminated at UNH 17 years ago. That it still survives at smaller schools is wonderful and surprising.
The same factors that led UNH to kill its baseball program in 1997 continue to cull college teams today. Temple University announced last year that it was cutting its baseball team for the same reasons: costs and Title IX. Costs are a huge factor. Baseball is an expensive sport that rarely makes money at the college level. That was one reason UNH did away with it. Title IX, the federal law mandating campus gender equity, plays a role too, mostly in the way it is enforced. Then-UNH trustee Terry Morton said Title IX was absolutely a driving factor in cutting baseball.
The NCAA’s dumb scholarship restrictions also play a role. No college may offer more than 11.7 baseball scholarships, so a school cannot try to turn its baseball program into a bigger draw by recruiting more star players.
But the biggest factor surely is competition for both fans and athletes. If college baseball made money like basketball and football do, teams would not be cut. Last year’s College World Series set attendance records for both the series and the championship game, which 27,127 fans attended. This year’s men’s basketball championship game also set an attendance record — of 79,238.
The good news is that baseball is still being played in New Hampshire and throughout America. It is affordable, too. Tickets for the Division II regional this weekend are $6 per day. That comes to $2 per game on Saturday. You can’t beat that with an aluminum bat. If the weather holds, what a nice way to spend a May day in New England.