First the good news: Alabama Baseball, now in its sixth year under coach Brad Bohannon, is once again in high regard as the preseason approaches. The Crimson Tide ranks #20 in D1 Baseball’s preseason poll.
That’s remarkable. There are 301 D1 teams in the country, putting The Tide in the top 6.6% of all programs.
Now for the bad news. That No. 20 ranking? It would bring Alabama to the US bottom half of the SEC – eight teams are in the D1 Top 25 and seven of them are above the tide. Like last season and the year before and the year before that, the expectation we realistically need to have is this: win games against non-conference opponents; win conference series you should; steal a series or two; play flirt with .500 SEK; end at 0.600 or so; come to Hoover; make regional.
It is against this set of results that we must measure Coach Bo’s record.
And did you notice what’s not inside? Getting to Omaha. Hosting a regional. Great SEC record.
They’re not there because, frankly, they might be unrealistic targets for reasons unrelated to coaching or roster.
As you can see, the SEC isn’t just a meat grinder, there are 301 D1 baseball teams, pretty much Everyone of them receive more institutional resources than the Crimson Tide in large conferences. And that’s certainly true at the SEC, where Alabama is the worst-supported program of the entire conference.
Let’s take a look.
Long paralyzed, the Crimson Tide made a living under Coach Bo by doing a lot more with a lot less. There are several structural issues at the NCAA level, the administrative level, even with the state laws that are putting those Omaha pennant dreams a long way off for now:
- Given the 11.7 scholarship rule, the lack of state education lottery was just brutal. Only five states do not have a lottery, and you’ll find that the rest of our SEC brethren do: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. Outside of the gate, with the exception of Alabama and AU, all other schools have some help for student athletes
- Inability to use “Border State Mutual Instate Tuition Payments”. For example, if your state borders Mississippi, you can go to school there at state prices, and their tuition is already much lower than Alabama’s. This, coupled with the lack of additional scholarship funding, results in many talented homegrown players going to both Ole Miss and MSU, and doing so far less cheaply than they could by visiting their home state flagship. Meanwhile, Arkansas retaliates with NINE states, including states full of great baseball players like Georgia, Florida, Texas and Louisiana! The Alabama athletic department has no say in this matter. It is at the President and Trustee level. If they give athletes lower tuition fees, they would have to give every student from those states the same. The university will not stop the OOS tuition sauce train.
- Lack of NIL funds for baseball. Some of us try, but we’ve only been able to muster so much (J Batt actually tied our hands on some ideas – luckily he’s gone). Auburn is way ahead of Bama in that regard, especially in basketball and baseball.
- It may not be that the Alabama administration doesn’t care about baseball, it’s still a revenue-generating sport. But the lack of resources for things like assistant coaches, additional partial scholarships and the like leaves a sour taste. Many associated with the program feel that as long as Bo runs a clean program and isn’t totally tanking, everything is fine in their eyes. It’s the same thinking that we’ve seen in gymnastics and both men’s and women’s basketball from the administration—the hiring is done, after that they don’t care if the performance is respectable and nobody gets (caught) cheating . This is very much the “dead girl or alive boy” political trope applied to collegiate athletics.
For more information on the structural issues facing the Crimson Tide and other similar issues, see Matt Ryan’s filmUneven.
Kudos to Coach Bo and ‘Bama Baseball. But as a fan, go into this season with your eyes open to what losing those opportunities means. They translate to 3-4 additional people per year. That’s an extra arm in the bullpen, a stay-at-home state stud to play on the mound for his youth team, a few extra sluggers in tight games. And when Alabama falls short in some competitions, you realize they’re playing a very different game with very different rules than literally everyone else in the conference.