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TODD AARON GOLDEN: What if an ISU baseball postseason home game conflicted with the Rex?

It nearly happened this year and could in the future

  • 5 min to read
TODD AARON GOLDEN: What if an ISU baseball postseason home game conflicted with the Rex?

Tribune-Star/Todd GoldenWhere the games are played: Indiana State's Bob Warn Field, shown here during a March 2019 game against Indiana. It is ISU's home field, but it is also the home field of the Terre Haute Rex. A scenario nearly occurred where there was an ISU postseason-Rex regular season game conflict in 2019.

Let's play a little what if? I know ... you're scoffing already. If if's and but's were candy and nuts, everyday would be Christmas, it has been famously said.

It's true that we did not experience Christmas in June in Terre Haute, but we nearly did. The candy was Indiana State's NCAA regional baseball run. The nuts are Bob Warn Field. Or flip them if you prefer a cashew over a Caramello.

"Christmas" would have been a NCAA Super Regional hosting opportunity at Bob Warn Field. It was closer to reality than you might realize.

It seemed far-fetched entering the NCAA regional. Most of all, because ISU would have had to get past No. 2 Vanderbilt to pull it off, and of course, they didn't. However, even if the Sycamores had completed that Herculean task? They needed a lot of help elsewhere.

They got that help. The Super Regional round is a two-team affair. No. 2-seed Vanderbilt was paired with the regional at No. 15-seed West Virginia with the winners at each regional playing one another in the super.

There was the chaos ISU needed in Morgantown, W.V. The host Mountaineers were never a factor, eliminated without even reaching the final. It came down to No. 2-seed Texas A&M and No. 3-seed Duke — and the Blue Devils prevailed. ISU was a No. 2 seed at Vanderbilt. Had it advanced? On paper, ISU would have had hosting priority over Duke with the better seed. 

Now, it's not as simple as that. The NCAA can, and sometimes does, have the worst seed host if they have better facilities, attendance history, or if the other school has an issue with its home field. In a scenario where one team puts in a bid and the other doesn't? The team that bids gets to host regardless of its seed.

According to ISU Director of Athletics Sherard Clinkscales, ISU was in the evaluation process with the NCAA to see if it could be a Super Regional host, but the process ended and was rendered moot when the Sycamores were eliminated by the Commodores.

However, Duke didn't put in a bid to host the Super Regional as it plays at the Durham Bulls minor league park and Durham was home that weekend. That would have thrown hosting duties back to ISU.

The problem? The Terre Haute Rex — tenants at Bob Warn Field — had three home games scheduled for Super Regional weekend. Unlike Duke, tenants of the Durham Bulls, ISU had theoretical control of its own facility.

So what happens if there's an ISU-Rex scheduling conflict? This is why this "what if" scenario matters. There is a possibility that this scheduling conflict could come up again — whether it's a Super Regional or first-round regional.

"We are evaluating options to host NCAA tournament games in future years and will certainly work with the Rex on any of those plans," Clinkscales said via text.

The first question ... can Bob Warn Field host in the first place? Clinkscales never got a definitive answer, but I can't imagine why Bob Warn Field wouldn't pass muster.

The main considerations for all Division I sports as far as hosting is concerned, according to NCAA Bylaw 31.1.3, are quality and availability of facility, revenue potential (it would have cost ISU $35,000 to host a Super Regional), attendance history or potential, geographic location and potential operating costs.

Bob Warn Field checks off most of the boxes. Geographic location and operating costs are not an issue. Bob Warn Field has lights (the primary field-related requirement listed in the pre-tournament manual), it has a good playing field, it has a booth that can accommodate a national TV broadcast.

ISU's attendance potential has never been tested for a postseason game, so there's no way of knowing how ISU would have passed muster there. (Northern teams' attendance is, of course, greatly influenced by cold weather for most of the season.) I've got to think ISU fans would have come out in force.

There's no minimum capacity limit listed in the NCAA guidelines, but Bob Warn Field's capacity can be 2,000 if all seating is utilized. UCLA hosted a Super Regional at its Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles — and it has a capacity of 1,820 and a press box much smaller than the one at Bob Warn Field.

So Bob Warn Field could almost certainly host, which would have meant the stadium would be needed for one practice day and three competition days.

But would it have been available?

The ISU-Rex lease has no specific clause as far as what happens if ISU hosts a postseason event. The lease states the premises may be used by the Rex from June 1 to Aug. 31, but there's also language that states that the Rex "may not interfere with practice or play of the ISU NCAA baseball team, including NCAA post-season play."

This could be a sticky situation. No one wants a scenario where ISU and the Rex are squabbling about field usage, especially with ISU in the postseason. At the end of the day? It's ISU's field, and if there was any question as to whether they would access to it? It would have been a public relations black eye for everyone.

Happily, according to Rex general manager Bruce Rosselli, that wouldn't have happened. Rosselli said the Rex would have moved their games to Rose-Hulman's Art Nehf Field if ISU had been in a hosting situation last weekend.

"Rose-Hulman is aware of those possibilities and have bent over backwards, with Jeff Jenkins [Rose-Hulman athletic director] and their new president [Robert Coons], that they were very welcome to have us have those games," Rosselli said. "There are 500 seats there, but they'd help us by putting in some rollaway bleachers, to give us maybe 500 more seats and get us through that time where Indiana State could play its Super Regional."

Art Nehf Field is a picturesque place to watch a game, but it doesn't have much parking. Could the Rex have just called the games and played them as doubleheaders later? It probably wouldn't have been that simple given the opponents' games elsewhere. It's also a likely non-starter that the Rex and ISU could have played home games on the same day. ESPN determines game times for all NCAA games, so there would have been little to no time to plan for such a scenario.

Rosselli definitely thought ISU's chances of making a deep postseason run was possible.

"The good thing is that ISU athletics communicates well with us on what they want to do. Indiana State baseball was on fire this year. Coach [Mitch] Hannahs had them on a roll and I wouldn't have been surprised if they made it out of that regional. We just need to communicate, like we have, to figure something out. We may have to adjust our schedule ahead of time to take that into account in the future," Rosselli said.

Of course, chat persists about the desire of the Rex to have their own facility. The lease with ISU runs through 2021. Would the Rex like their own place? Of course. Who wouldn't? And if the Rex ever did have their own facility? It would be great for Wabash Valley baseball without diminishing what ISU brings to the table.

But whether that comes to pass someday or not? Rosselli said he's happy with the current partnership with ISU.

"[A stadium] is something you want, I've mentioned it a couple of times, but what we have with Indiana State is knowing we can play there and that they've accommodated what we bring to the community in having a baseball team. It's entertainment for the Wabash Valley, but it also promotes ISU baseball, which is why the whole thing was started years ago [by the ISU Foundation]," Rosselli said.

It's good to know that ISU and the Rex could have worked through any conflicts in what would have been a defining moment for ISU athletics. It's also re-assuring to know that if if's and but's ever did become candy and nuts for ISU baseball? A June Christmas really could come to Bob Warn Field.

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Follow Golden on Twitter at @TribStarTodd.

Todd Aaron Golden has been Sports Editor and Indiana State beat writer since September 2004. Born in Milwaukee but an Indiana resident most of his adult life, he previously worked in Jeffersonville, Columbus and Eau Claire, Wis.