Wow. On May 31, I wrote a post asking the athletic department to consider bringing back baseball. I figured that it would be five or six years down the line before something could happen. Little did I, or anyone else for that matter, know that the athletic department was already thinking about it. And here we stand today, knowing that we'll again have a baseball team in 2009. I'm not really sure the steps Kilkenny had to take to make this happen in three months, but I am excited that my alma mater will finally have a baseball team to cheer for.
Before I go into baseball in detail, I want to mention the other aspects of this "reorganization" of the athletic department. The negative consequence is that the wrestling program had to be cut. The sad truth is that, to comply with Title IX, both programs could not exist. This sucks. I feel bad for the coaches and student-athletes in the wrestling program, as well as the Oregon wrestling community. Oregon has a great wrestling tradition, and I hope that as soon as Oregon is Title IX compliant, that wrestling is brought back. But the economic truth of the matter is that college baseball is surging in popularity and is sure to become a major source of revenue over the next decade. Don't buy into Kilkenny's "facilities challenges" excuse. Baseball has far more facilites issues than wrestling at this point. This was an economic decision. While, as a baseball fan, I am happy with a decision that results in bringing baseball back, it is easy to see why wrestling fans are upset. They have every right to be.
But perhaps the most curious aspect of this whole thing is the decision to add women's competitive cheer. We all knew that Oregon was going to add another women's sport as progress toward Title IX compliance. The prevalent thought was that women's crew would be the sport added. 20 scholarships surely would have gone a long way toward gender equality. However, Oregon went with a sport that isn't even NCAA sanctioned. Renee Baumgartner, the assistant AD, cited cheer's growing popularity as the reason for that decision, and is confident that it will be NCAA sanctioned within ten years. However, this, too, was an economic decision. This, too, was an economic decision. No facilities would have to be built for cheer--as practices and competitions would be held in the Moshofsky Center, while current locker room facilites in the Casanova Center would be used. Personally, I think cheer is a joke, and would rather have seen UO go with a much more traditonal sport (crew, gymnastics, or water polo), but it wasn't like I was actually going to go to any games anyway. Cheer adds nine women's scholarships. And don't worry, because scholarships are given, the fact that cheer is not NCAA sanctioned has no Title IX implications.
Now, back to baseball. Many Beaver fans are up in arms over the decision, claiming that their success was the only reason this has happened. I believe that it was going to happen eventually because of the potential revenue. However, there is no doubt that the success of OSU's baseball program made this happen a lot more quickly then it would have come other wise. Although I am curious as to why many Beaver fans seem to be so upset about it. You should be happy that you have had so much success that your rival want to emulate you. And also be secure in the fact that you will dominate the series for the first 6-8 years. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Take it as a compliment.
I'm not really sure how Kilkenny was able to pull this together so fast. However, there are still many issues to be solved. Where are the Ducks going to play? Civic Stadium might be the place initially, but it is clear the the Ducks will need to have a ballpark built with the first five years of the program. With the arena going up at the old bakery, where will the ballpark be built? At this point, its unknown. Also unknown is how soon the Ducks will play a full conference schedule. Kilkenny hopes to have a new coach hired by September, and at that point they will decide together whether getting drilled by the rest of the Pac-10 is what they want to do in the first year, or whether they want to play more of an independent schedule, then go Pac-10 in year two. And hold no illusions, Duck fans, the first few years won't be pretty, from a record standpoint at least.
In any case, it'll be a blast being able to watch our beloved Ducks on the baseball diamond. And those of us who aren't track fans will have something to do in the spring besides clamor for football season.