Over the years wars and strikes have managed to stop baseball in its tracks. (So have the occasional malfunction of lights and water sprinklers.) But today baseball, especially college baseball, is being targeted for significant cuts in order to fill enormous state budget shortfalls. 46 sates face budget shortfalls this year. The Illinois legislature this week said it would nearly double the state income tax to fill the void. But budget cuts, even cuts to sacrosanct education budgets, are the focus.
And baseball is hardly immune.
On Sept. 28 the University of California announced it will end its 108-year-old baseball program.
All of NCAA Division 2 baseball programs will play a shorter season.
In the last decade we have seen a rash of baseball programs cut from Duquesne, New Hampshire, Providence, Iowa State, Boston University and others (CheckSwing posted about this trend).
Of course the University of Oregon brought its baseball program after a long hiatus, in part to compete with cross-state rival Oregon State, which in recent years won back-to-back natinal titles.
Baseball is a target within athletic budgets for several reasons. It is a men's only sport, and Title IX is a factor. With lots of games and travel it is expensive. And with a few exceptions baseball does not draw large crowds and sponsorships.
It's nearly two years old now, but Robert Smith's interview of an athletic director and a baseball coach stands as both prophetic and illustrative of the impact of our economy on our game.
The economy is improving and for the most part Major League Baseball has remained strong in a down market. So maybe better days are ahead. Certainly for summer college baseball fans, which rely on strong college baseball programs for talent, we hope relief is in sight.
I'd love to see an energetic defense of college baseball programs. I'd also like to hear from readers on where they are seeing cuts to college baseball programs. Online I did not find a good source of information about how college baseball programs are faring. Speak up, CodBall readers!