The calendar is turning to June which, if you’re a college baseball fan, means that the Big Dance is just around the corner. This past weekend conference tournaments finished up and the bracket was announced. Next up comes regionals, followed by Super Regionals, and then of course the College World Series.
It’s a time of year that carries a lot of excitement around the country but here in the state of Wisconsin, things are pretty quiet. That’s because Wisconsin has not fielded an NCAA baseball team since 1991. Of the fourteen teams in the Big Ten, Wisconsin is the lone school to not carry a varsity baseball team.
Michigan steamrolled Wisconsin like the Badgers don't even have a baseball team. https://t.co/TJwHYdkEwb— Adam Rygg (@BigRygg) May 30, 2022
Well, there was always a variety of excuses, each of them rather lame. Initially, the program was cut to eliminate debt in the athletic department. However, it’s hard to buy the “money is tight” excuse today when Camp Randall is currently undergoing a rather pricey face lift to the South End Zone. Sure, football is the moneymaker, but Wisconsin could find the money if they truly WANTED to bring back baseball.
This brings the next point, want. For years the finger was pointed at former Athletic Director Barry Alvarez who never seemed to show much want in bringing the program back. Anytime it seemed to be brought up Alvarez quickly shut it down and during his tenure, he remained adamant that a return was unlikely. Many said that when Alvarez handed over the reins as AD that it could in turn open the door, but that does not seem to be the case. We’re heading into year two of Chris McIntosh as AD and I can imagine that it likely has not been discussed in any serious way.
To me, it’s odd that the University of Wisconsin continues to shy away from bringing back their baseball program as the state is clearly invested in the game. At the top, the Milwaukee Brewers have developed a very strong following from most of the state. Further down, you have the single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers who draw strong crowds regularly.
In the summer, Madison is home to the Madison Mallards who lead the Northwoods League in attendance year in and year out. Additionally, Wisconsin is home to seven other Northwoods League across the state. There’s no doubt that this state loves the game of baseball.
Opening Day is here! ⚾️— Madison Mallards (@MadisonMallards) May 30, 2022
Mallards take the lead in the 4th! After 4:
- 0 pic.twitter.com/WYoZ2FP2Fj
Love of the game likely isn’t enough, though. In non-revenue generating sports, being competitive is just as important. Part of the reason UW cut baseball in 1991 was that the team was, well, not very competitive. But I do not believe that would be the case today!
Baseball at the prep level has greatly improved over the last two decades with highly competitive developmental programs now all over the state. High school baseball players have improved leaps and bounds since 1991 and have had tremendous success at the college level, but many of them do so outside of the state.
I refuse to believe that a Wisconsin baseball team would not be competitive if brought back and given a little time. There’s too much talent in the area, the state clearly loves the game of baseball, and Wisconsin has had a very successful track record at being a top university in many of the “non-revenue” sports year in and year out.
All in all, it’s disappointing that UW continues to avoid bringing baseball back. It’s 2022. It’s been 20 years. We can find a way. If 13 other Big Ten universities can make it work, I am sure Wisconsin can as well if they wanted to.
Iowa baseball was one of the top programs in the conference this past year. If they can do it, why not Wisconsin? (Sidenote: Rutgers was snubbed from the NCAA tournament. Shame on the NCAA.). How cool would it to be see Wisconsin baseball playing for an NCAA tournament spot? How great would it be to see Wisconsin competing in an NCAA regional the same way softball did just a few weeks ago? I think it would be awesome and yet it feels like it’ll never happen.