By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The college baseball season ends too soon because of one reason – it starts too soon.
The Iowa baseball team played its first regular-season game on Feb. 18 and then played its last regular-season game this past Saturday.
It has taken slightly more than three months for Iowa to play 50 regular-season games.
Iowa (33-17) now advances to the Big Ten Tournament, where as a No. 3 seed, it will face sixth-seed Penn State Wednesday morning in Omaha, Nebraska.
Whether Iowa has accomplished enough already to deserve an NCAA Tournament bid is open for debate, as is when the college baseball should start.
On one side of the debate about when the season should start are those mostly from Midwestern or northern states, including Iowa head coach Rick Heller, that believe the start of the season should be pushed back at least one month, while on the other side are those from mostly warm-weather states that believe the season should start when it currently does in February.
In this case, Heller’s opinion makes more sense, but it goes beyond just having an Iowa bias.
It would just make more sense to play the college baseball season from late March or early April to early July for reasons that include, of course, the weather, but also from an exposure and interest standpoint.
Just think of all that is happening in college athletics when the Iowa baseball team starts playing games in mid-to-late February.
The college basketball season is in full swing in late February, along with the college wrestling season, while spring football starts in March.
That’s a lot for baseball to have to compete against, especially for the northern schools that traditionally travel down south to play games in February and for parts of March because of the weather conditions.
Iowa played its first three games this season at the Swig & Swine Classic in Charleston, South Carolina followed by three games at the Kleberg Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas, and then games 8-10 were played at the Frisco Classic in Texas.
That took a lot of traveling and time, and the expenses that go with it.
And while road trips should be part of the college baseball experience, a team shouldn’t have to play nine of its first 10 games a long way from home simply because of the weather.
But that’s what Iowa faced this season, and it’s what Iowa and all the other Big Ten teams face every season due to games starting in mid-to-late February.
Ohio State is the last Big Ten team to win a national championship in baseball way back in 1966.
To help put that in perspective, the Pacific 12 Conference has had 22 national champions in baseball since 1967, while the Southeastern Conference has had 13.
So, it’s not just a North versus South debate, but more so a warm weather versus cold weather divide.
The warm-weather schools don’t want to move the schedule back because it would be against their best interest from a winning, and from a recruiting standpoint.
Because it would maybe help to narrow the gap between the warm-weather schools and the cold-weather schools that has existed in college baseball for far too long, but those on the winning side of the gap – warm-weather schools – have no interest in changing something that works to their advantage.
Not since Wichita State in 1989 has a team from either the Midwest or from a northern school won the College World Series.
Michigan finished runner-up in 2019 in its first appearance in the College World Series since 1984.
Iowa made its only College World Series appearance in 1972, and members of that team were recently honored at an Iowa game, marking the 50-year anniversary.
Some will dismiss this as just whining about a subject that has become stale over the years.
But it just seems because of how early the college baseball season starts that weather plays a bigger factor in helping to separate the haves from the have nots than it should.
There is no denying that the warm-weather schools are the most successful in college baseball, and usually have the best players and the best facilities and always the best weather in February, March and April.
By the time the weather in Iowa gets suitable for baseball, the Iowa baseball team’s season is usually almost over.
This spring has been worse than usual due mostly to strong winds that have persisted throughout the season, along with the typical chilly and wet conditions.
Instead of feeling threatened by moving the start of the season to late March or early April, the warm-weather schools should consider it an opportunity to show their superiority while also helping to make the sport more balanced and competitive.
If the warm-weather schools truly are vastly superior to teams from the Midwest and from the northern states, then moving the schedule back about six weeks shouldn’t have that much of an effect.
The Iowa baseball team is peaking at the right time, and with that comes more interest from fans as the weather improves and as the mindset shifts to baseball.
College baseball should be played in June and July rather than February and March because it would help to level the playing field, would make the viewing experience better for fans and would give the sport the big stage all by itself when it matters the most in the postseason.
Heat and humidity would be a concern in late June and July, but on the other hand, baseball was made to be played in heat and humidity.
It’s summer ‘s pasttime, except for in college where the season starts in the winter for reasons that seem pretty selfish and one-sided.