University of Miami baseball will learn Friday if it has a chance to stay at home for an NCAA regional — that is, if the Hurricanes, indeed, are eventually chosen as one of the 64 tournament teams.
The NCAA on Friday will release the 20 finalists to host the opening regional round of the Division I Baseball Tournament that begins the first weekend of June, Jeff Altier, the Stetson athletic director and NCAA chair of the Division I Baseball Committee told the Miami Herald in a phone interview.
“Well over 45 teams or schools made bids,’’ Altier said. “We reviewed them this week and have made a recommendation to the NCAA competition oversight committee. I don’t think any teams will be told before the announcement.”
The NCAA, which normally announces the 16 regional host sites the night before the field of 64 is announced live on ESPN on Memorial Day, this year is naming 20 finalists for those 16 spots because the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates that there’s enough time to organize and certify testing protocols for each regional and super regional.
Then, the field will be cut to 16 venues and announced May 30. Altier said the NCAA will use the time between now and then to evaluate how the 20 teams have done after Friday and eliminate the four which might not be as deserving.
“We can say, ‘OK, that school fell out of favor or dropped down in the rankings,’’’ Altier said.
Unranked UM, which bid for a regional, is 27-15 overall and 15-14 in the Atlantic Coast Conference with seven regular-season games left, including a three-game home series against the ACC’s Georgia Tech (24-18, 18-12) this weekend at Mark Light Field. After the regular season comes the ACC tournament May 25-30 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Despite being unranked, the Canes have the nation’s No. 22 RPI out of 293 Division I baseball teams.
When asked if a team could be sent on the road to play in a regional when its home field has been selected as a regional venue, Altier said, “That’s a great question. Let me answer that in a way that is probably most appropriate. I don’t know the answer to that question. I would suspect we would not encourage that. If a team is a host, the team would [likely] be at that site.
“That hasn’t come up as part of our conversations. In this COVID environment anything is possible, but I think that’s unlikely.”
Next question: Could a team be picked as a host and not make the tournament?
“It would be really weird,’’ Altier said. “We don’t anticipate that happening.
“The one thing you can guarantee after watching college sports all year is in this environment things change rapidly and you just have to be ready to adjust. And we will, but it all goes back to what we’re trying to do is make sure the most athletically successful teams get the opportunity to serve as hosts, which is a longstanding objective of college baseball.’’
Altier said consideration of “all financial guarantees” when choosing host sites were removed this year because of the COVID factor. Among the criteria for choosing sites are “lighting appropriate for television, a facility that is high quality, availability of hotel rooms and a team that we’d consider as one of the top teams in that area. This year we’re trying to look for geographic diversity across the country because baseball is a national sport.
“But primarily it’s athletic success we’re looking for.’’