Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

W E S T E R N _ A T H L E T I C _ C O N F E R E N C E

WAC coaches
nix baseball

At their meetings, they also
agree to keep UH-Hilo and discuss
some concerns over the
quality of umpiring

By Al Chase


There were three main topics of discussion at the Western Athletic Conference baseball coaches meeting Sunday.

As usual, the umpires took the most time. Also discussed was a postseason tournament and what to do about Hawaii-Hilo when Nevada enters the league for the 2001 baseball season.

The WAC athletic directors did not want a postseason tournament in 2000 and the coaches decided not to recommend changing that decision.

"Basically, the conference will be competitive and we didn't think it would be a problem getting teams into the NCAA tournament," UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida said. "The power ratings will be there and revenues from the tournament haven't been that good the past few years."

"I think it will be hard for the coaches not to recommend having a tournament in 2001," UH head coach Les Murakami said. He then added, "If Hilo stays in, that will mean 36 league games and I don't think there will be a tournament."

The possibilities discussed for the 2001 season were keeping the Vulcans in, adding one or more affiliate members or going with the six WAC schools that sponsor baseball.

The consensus was to keep Hilo in, making the WAC a seven-team conference. No one wanted more affiliate schools and the idea of just six WAC schools didn't draw any support.

"Most of the coaches like the idea of Hilo being in because it gives them six free games. It gets their schedule up to 62 games," Murakami said.

The NCAA limits Division I teams to 56 games, but mainland schools don't have to count games against UH and UHH.

"If they are coming here to play us anyway, the cost is negligible to play three more in Hilo," Murakami said.

"There was no discussion about getting an eighth team. Everybody wants the double round-robin format we started last year."

The umpire discussion revolved around uniformity of the strike zone, the umpire evaluator and exactly what is a traveling umpire.

When UH played at TCU last season, the strike zone was two balls (wide) on the outside of the plate and one ball on the inside according to Murakami. And, it varied at other sites.

"As Wayne Graham (Rice head coach) said, it's out and out cheating. It's got to be the same everywhere," Murakami said.

The coaches want the evaluator to be on the same page as the umpires when it comes to strike zone uniformity. The coaches also questioned why they do not evaluate umpires anymore.

"We haven't done it for two years,' Murakami said. "If we are way off with the evaluator, then something is wrong. There needs to be a consensus.

"I'm not saying someone is going to cheat, but if we're playing a California school, I don't want the traveling umps to come from California. It comes down to familiarity and perception.

"The argument was made that there aren't enough good umpires. If an umpire isn't good, then he isn't good for two sides. At least I know he's from somewhere else."

UHH head coach Joey Estrella also questioned whether it was necessary to have mainland umpires for the two Rainbows-Vulcans series.

It would be more cost effective to use Hawaii umpires known to both head coaches. The same might be true for series involving Rice and Texas Christian and San Jose State and Fresno State.

No one had an answer, so the WAC will have to make a decision on that question.

The coaches did adopt the Rawlings baseball for the 2000 season after using the Spalding ball in 1999.

"The financial deal with Rawlings was just too good to pass up," Murakami said.

Also, with most road trips now involving two series, the coaches are recommending travel rosters be increased beyond the present 25-player limit so a change can be made in the roster for the second series.

This would allow for an injured player to be replaced. Each school would determine its own travel roster.

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