Is The New SBC Softball Schedule A Good Thing?
Conference weekends will be a little different for Sun Belt Conference softball programs in 2019.
Over the last 12 seasons, teams played three games over a two-day period. In other words, teams would normally play a doubleheader on Saturdays, with a single game on Sunday.
That will change next year.
Beginning in 2019, teams will play single games, Friday-Sunday.
So, is this a good thing?
In my opinion, it's an absolute no-brainer, and long overdue.
The game of college softball is getting better and better, the players are becoming more and more skilled, and the sport has simply outgrown doubleheaders.
To get mentally ready to compete against other Division I softball players is taxing. To have to do it again, 20 minutes later, is incredibly difficult.
There was once a time when two teams could play a doubleheader in less than three hours. Now, because of livelier balls, better bats, and quite frankly, just better players, or at least more of them, there is better offense, and one game now normally lasts a little over two hours, meaning a long day at the park for these players for a twinbill.
Again; to think that's it's not difficult for the players to stay mentally sharp for 5 hours, while playing against quality competition, is just not respecting the game, or how difficult it can be.
Simply put, by not scheduling doubleheaders in conference play, fans are going to see better softball throughout a respective series.
The new scheduling system will also protect the better teams.
Teams like Louisiana and Texas St. are more susceptible to an upset in the second game of a doubleheader, and a loss to a team outside of the top 100 in the RPI rankings could cost them a host spot in a regional.
Better softball...more consistent softball..what's the problem?
Ask Louisiana Ragin' Cajun baseball coach Tony Robichaux if he likes doubleheaders.
Coach Robe despises them. He says baseball is meant to be played 9 innings, once a day.
To me, the game of softball has grown to the point that it is meant to be played 7 innings, once a day.
Now, when it comes to early season tournament action, you have to make an exception, but not for conference play.
Maybe the biggest advantage of the new schedule for conference games will be limiting the possibility of losing conference games, due to weather.
The way it had been done, if a day was rained out on Saturday, the best you could do was to play a doubleheader on Sunday, thereby losing a game. Beginning next year, if a game is rained out on Friday night, you can use a doubleheader for what it was intended for, a make-up, on Saturday, and still get in all three games of the series.
The new format is also more media-friendly. More and more athletic events are on television, or the video feed is offered on the internet. This makes it easier for those media outlets to schedule the games, and more days to offer them on.
Are there any negatives?
Well, maybe minimal ones.
First, the girls will be out of class more.
Still, they'll only be out of class for road games, making it only four extra days on the road all year.
Understand; I don't take the fact that the young women will be missing some extra class lightly, but is it really that big of a deal? Men's and women's basketball misses classes Wednesday-Friday, one day more than this new set-up, when they hit the road for conference games, and they have players that have thrived, academically.
Power conferences, like the SEC, Big XII, and the Pac-12 have been playing single games for years, and most of their players have not had any academic issues.
And what about Sun Belt Conference baseball schools, like Louisiana, who have been playing the same three-game schedules on the weekends? They haven't had any academic issues.
And we've heard the term "gender equity" an awful lot over the past couple of years; well, it works both ways; if the Sun Belt Conference baseball players weren't succeeding in the classroom because they spent 4-5 extra days on the road, shouldn't they be playing doubleheaders, like the softball players?
Those are some of the reasons why I never bought the academic argument.
Let's face it; the real reason the Sun Belt Conference played doubleheaders, and why other conferences still do, is because of money.
One less day means one less day for players, coaches, and umpires in hotels.
It's nice to see that the Sun Belt Conference, and the league's coaches, have put their feet down, saying that the game of softball is too good, and that the athletes that play it are too important to cut corners.
Remember when conference weekends had two doubleheaders; one on Saturday and one on Sunday? That was awful!
Even in the postseason, the NCAA wisely decided a couple of years ago that Super Regional series' would be played over a three-day period, instead of two. Why? Because the sport has outgrown the doubleheader, and the sport should be treated with the respect it deserves.
And look; you'll still see some doubleheaders. There will be rainouts, meaning doubleheaders the next day, and you may see a twinbill on a special occasion, like maybe Easter weekend.
But in 2019, Sun Belt Conference softball series' will be played over a three-day period, and that's something that the conference should be applauded for.