"You can't play games up North as early as they do in the South."
"They have leagues play year-round from little league on up."
"We don't have the areas you can recruit from, so obviously we can't compete."
"Baseball just isn't viable for Northern schools compared to the Southern schools, so they should let us have our own CWS."
"Kids just don't want to play baseball in the North."
These are excuses that have been proclaimed in the B1G footprint from Emperor Delany on down over the years. Athletic Directors, University Administrators, and Failed Coaches alike have all made comments like these to try and point out that it obviously isn't their fault the Big Ten isn't good at baseball. With a two game sweep of the Seminoles in one of the Powerhouse Stadiums of College Baseball, Dick Howser Stadium, the Hoosiers made these arguments moot. The B1G can compete at the highest level and there are not very many excuses left to not be doing what you can to succeed.
Look, this is the conference that has more money than anyone and is not afraid to flaunt it. Athletic Departments are literally running out of facilities they can redo as you see new building after new building for sports like Volleyball, Wrestling, Swimming and Diving, Soccer, and even baseball. We are starting to share the wealth with the best coaches in other sports - basketball and football especially - and we see that recruiting can be accomplished if you try. The only excuse that was left was that a Northern school just couldn't get over the hump because kids didn't want to come North and play. Surely it wasn't the University's fault for not trying to put together the right staff, it was the lack of kids who were willing to play for us. Indiana built a team mostly from kids in Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio and were coached up and scrappy.
Of course, that is not to say that Indiana is some slouch that just played harder than everyone else. Indiana played a tough non-con fitting in series against both Florida and Louisville. They went South to some tournaments in the early part of the year and racked up wins that helped out their RPI later thus charting a course towards Omaha from the beginning. Basically they had a gameplan. If you have followed Corn Nation's ridiculously detailed B1G Baseball Weekly Review this year, you have seen that Indiana was in it to win it early on and everyone saw that. They finished with a Top 10 RPI, Top 10 Ranking in the polls, and were just a hair off of hosting a Super Regional. This was a good team that was coached by B1G COY Tracy Smith and it showed. They believed it could be done, and unsurprisingly they were right.
Last year, Purdue was a good team and had a chance to make it to Omaha. This year, Illinois and Indiana made the tournament and if Nebraska could have clawed their way to .500, they had the RPI to make it and probably would have had a chance at the Supers with the right draw. The B1G won some head-to-head series against schools from all over the nation this year, and in general, there is proof that baseball is a viable sport for Big Ten teams. Of course, the question that most all of you - especially on our predominately football site - are asking yourselves, "Who cares?"
Well, simply put, even though we all laugh at the SEC's Network, especially in light of their ambitious baseball sales pitch, baseball is a legitimate TV Powerhouse. It would behoove the Big Ten to pay attention to the ratings ESPN has been getting for the Regionals and Super Regionals. This is a growing sport, and baseball - contrary to many people's opinion - is one of the most popular sports in America. With an ever-impending saturation point coming on how much you can squeeze out of football and basketball, it is important to arm the conference with other sellable material. Sure, the Big Ten has some powerhouse players in non-revenue sports like Wrestling, Swimming and Diving, the ever-growing LAX, Soccer, etc., but as far as made-for-TV content, baseball instantly rises to the top. The B1G simply can't look the other way sighting indifference and disadvantages while this sport grows in popularity with the aid of the SECN and our friends at the WWL. Luckily, now the excuses of not being good enough to compete are gone.
Regardless of how Indiana does in Omaha, they did their part for the good guys this year. We finally got a B1G team into the CWS and that helps with the growing momentum B1G baseball seems to be seeing. Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Nebraska all return pieces that could make noise next year, and the Michigans aren't too far behind the pack. Our conference may never be a baseball powerhouse, but we have the resources to always make noise in June. It shouldn't be an exception or an anomaly when a B1G team makes it to Omaha. Rather, it should be the rule and with a little noise at TD Ameritrade Ballpark, the Hoosiers could prove that can happen. So whether or not you could care less about Indiana baseball, for one week we all owe it to our schools and the conference to be fans of the Hoosiers. At minimum, it's the least we can do to thank Indiana for erasing all the excuses Delany and Co. have proliferated over the years. It's about time.