NCAA Changes Baseball Playoffs; 32-Team Regional Format Installed
The Harvard baseball team's quest for a trip to Omaha and the College World Series will have to take a different route this year because of a new NCAA ruling changing the way in which teams are selected for the World Series.
The new format provides for eight four-team regional playoffs to determine the right teams that will play in Omaha. Of the 32 teams that will enter the regional playoffs, 15 will qualify automatically as conference champions. The other 17 will be chosen at large by the six-member NCAA Division I subcommittee on baseball.
NCAA and Harvard officials said yesterday that the ruling will "not necessarily" lesson Harvard's chances for a third trip to Omaha, but it may reduce New England representation in the annual tournament.
Louis Spry, a staff administrator at the NCAA's Kansas City headquarters, said yesterday that "big flak is coming from the East because they feel their representation has been reduced." Spry said he was "not sure" whether the Eastern schools' allegation is true.
One advantage for the East that will result from the new ruling is that travel expenses to Omaha for the eight regional champions will be paid from a pool of all receipts from the playoffs. Since the West perennially outdraws the East, this should prove to be a financial boon to the Eastern winners, Spry said.
In spite of the rule change, Harvard still has to win the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League in order to advance in the playoffs. The winner of that league automatically qualifies for an eastern playoff with three-at-large teams.
Harvard coach Loyal Park said yesterday that he has not studied the new ruling. He did say that since Harvard had to win the EIBL it wouldn't affect the Crimson because, "our primary goal every season is to win the Eastern league."
Park leaves with his charges tomorrow for Florida for a 17-game citrus season schedule before returning north to pursue a newly-paved road to the College Series.