- Oct 11, 2021
It truly reflects the difficult situation in which Iowa's program finds itself. Through a set of circumstances that are irrelevant to this discussion, I had a wonderful telephone conversation with Coach Heller yesterday. Our conversation ultimately evolved into the RPI and the box in which northern teams are placed by the heavy reliance the committee places upon RPI and the need for mid-week games.
As much as we might all like to see Iowa schedule mid-week games against Notre Dame or Missouri instead of Illinois State and Western Illinois, there are a few factors working against that happening: (a) Both Notre Dame and Missouri are dead set against going on the road to play Iowa in a mid-week game and (b) Iowa's administration wants to limit the amount of class time missed by the baseball team. Left unmentioned (and I didn't ask) was whether expenses also played a role. South Bend is a 5 hour drive from Iowa City. Columbia is just under 4 hours. You can likely slice off some serious time by chartering a flight but the cost would be markedly higher.
Iowa will always be able to convince Western Illinois, Illinois State, Bradley, etc. to travel to Iowa City for a mid-week game. Gives those teams a chance to knock off a big, bad B1G program. Iowa needs those games to get the young pitchers some experience and stretch out their arms. However, when those games are "developmental" in nature, there is great risk that Iowa doesn't win that game. Very little upside from an RPI perspective for Iowa; lots of downside.
And, not to be the ultimate downer, but Coach Heller shared something with me that I didn't know. There is no B1G representation on the D-1 baseball committee. That committee is responsible for selecting the 64 team field. The Midwest Region rep is Bowling Green's (Mid-American Conference) AD and Indiana State's (Missouri Valley Conference) AD has an at-large position. Coach Heller indicated that the absence of a B1G AD really puts the B1G behind an eight ball because there is no "voice" on the committee actively supporting the B1G. If anything, it appears that the ADs from the Midwest Region appear to relish the fact that this is a situation where they can "stick it" to the B1G. For the members, see: http://web1.ncaa.org/committees/committees_roster.jsp?CommitteeName=1MBA
As for losing to ISU 3-2 in Iowa City in a mid-week game - fueled at least in part by a single ill-advised decision by Seeger to make an off balance throw to 1B in an effort to get an out - it is worth noting that #8 RPI Dallas Baptist lost 2 of its 3 games that it played against ISU. ISU is not a good team . . . but good enough to take a conference series against a high RPI opponent (projected as a #2 seed). Dallas Baptist also lost 2 of 3 games against fellow MVC team Bradley (who Iowa beat twice while losing none).
You could feel the frustration coming out of Coach Heller's mouth as he described the RPI system and how it negatively impacts what he's trying to do with Iowa.
Interesting read, thanks for sharing. I wonder if he’s ever considered scheduling other Big Ten teams for non conference games like Nebraska, Northwestern, or Illinois? They are all in the same boat as Iowa for mid week games and I know other teams in the Big Ten have done it.