Ole Miss finalizes bid for for baseball regional
Success on the baseball diamond is one only part of the equation when it comes time to earn an NCAA Regional. Each season, athletic departments across the nation submit bids to the NCAA, with the goal of landing a postseason venue for their respective programs.
In the case of Ole Miss, the baseball bid, a requirement to garner consideration for a host spot, is being handled by Titus Queen, the university’s game operations coordinator. Queen gained valuable experience handling such bids when he was at Florida State the past six years, serving as the second in command for the bidding process for two regionals and three super regionals that were awarded to the Seminoles.
“I got started on the experience here as a participant,” said Queen, who served as the equipment manager to Ole Miss baseball from 2002-05. “Your role is a little bit different when you’re a manager and a graduate assistant. My first year at Florida State, I was in charge of the baseball field, so I got experience it from that point of view. And then the last four or five years, I actively had a role in putting on a regional, from running the tarp crew to being in charge of the stadium. It built up as I went along.”
The experience gained, at another top-level school historically used to hosting NCAA events in other sports such as soccer, has already paid off for Ole Miss this year. After winning two out of three games over Georgia in the final home series, the Rebels sat atop the Southeastern Conference Western Division standings with 17 wins, a benchmark number when it comes time to determining regional host sites.
Another key in deciding regionals revolves around a team’s rating percentage index or RPI. Ole Miss has been in the top 15 all season, a good ranking when it comes time for the NCAA committee to make a final decision on May 25.
Queen has been directly in charge of other NCAA bids, in other sports, and he said that baseball isn’t much different other than it was bigger.
“The rules, the neutrality that the NCAA tries to emphasize are kind of the same thing. It’s just a lot bigger when it comes to money,” said Queen who was looking over the financial details of the bid with a fine-tooth comb before submitting it by the deadline today. “Our stadium size and attendance puts us over the top of a lot of people and a lot of other programs. There are certain things you have to have like lights, a certain size press box.
“This all starts on the field, but we’re having a great year. We’re playing very well. You never know you have a bid until you see your name flash across the TV screen, but if you look at how things have been decided in the past and who gets a regional, the criteria they use, we feel pretty good about our shot. I think we feel pretty confident we’re going to be playing more baseball games at Swayze Field this year.”
Lynette Johnson, Ole Miss Executive Associate Athletics Director, has been in charge of the bid process in the past and is still there to help Queen. She felt the win-loss ratio is very much in line with other teams that have hosted before.
“Mike and the team have done a fantastic job and they are sitting right where they need to be,” said Johnson, who helped Ole Miss garner bids four straight years from 2004-07 and then again in 2009. “When the committee gets in there and starts looking at what they’ve accomplished to get the tournament, you really want to stay in that top 16 and be in the top six in the SEC. That has really helped, historically.”
There are number of factors involved in the bid process, so much so that planning really begins in the fall when Queen blocked off enough hotel rooms to accommodate visiting teams and officials that would be in town for the three-day event.
“I started making preliminary plans for this bid back in March. Coach (Mike) Bianco is really involved. I had a meeting with him a couple of weeks ago where I sat down and discussed start times and protocols and going over how a regional works in Oxford, the logistics of who goes where when, to make sure we’re on the same page,” Queen said. “We had a meeting with the hotel groups back in September and we did it for baseball, soccer, tennis. Obviously with Oxford being the size that it is, you have to get hotel rooms way in advance.”
After the bid
Once the announcement becomes public, Queen said everything really kicks into gear, from the printing of tickets to the issuing of parking passes for staff members.
“There is nothing more than you can offer to your student-athletes than to offer the opportunity to keep playing, and to do so when they get to go to sleep in their own beds, go eat at Ajax or do whatever they want to do during the day. There is a comfort level and plus, you get to play in front of your own fans,” Queen said. “It’s also a treat we’re able to give our fans. It’s an NCAA event, so you have to make as much of an effort to make it a neutral site. You can’t do some of the things you do during a normal season. You can’t have all the trappings of a home event, but there is no denying there is 10,000 people there cheering for Ole Miss and that’s going to give you a boost.”
One of the things that Johnson has noticed since Ole Miss really got into submitting bids has been 1) the amount of schools placing bids and 2) teams that earn it, should get the opportunity.
“You have to put in a bid and have all your numbers, but if our venue wasn’t as big as it was and our team was sitting at 10th in the country, we would want that opportunity to host, too,” Johnson said. “The NCAA has taken a shift and I think that’s seen in a lot of places. Teams that have a high RPI, they have an opportunity host, if they have all of the qualifications.”
Johnson said the bid, from a financial standpoint, is based on a percentage of the 9,400 tickets Ole Miss has to sell. Then the expenses to run the weekend are put on paper. Tickets are sold over a six-game regional, for sure, Johnson said. There is no number put on the “if necessary” game because it’s not guaranteed. Then the bid is based on gross and operations numbers to finalize everything.
There is road construction currently going on Hwy. 6, located at the Old Taylor exit, closing the area to traffic. Queen said that while it’s not ideal for fans, it doesn’t prevent Ole Miss from gaining a regional bid.
“Obviously that is a main artery for fans to get to baseball games. That is a bit of a challenge for us. Once the regional gets announced, we will make our baseball-only website become regional central and there will be a traffic plan, with suggestions, on how to come in,” Queen said. “We know it’s going to be one less way for fans to come in and out, but we don’t think it’s going to be a complete deal breaker. There are still four or five other ways to get in (to campus). It’s not crippling. The NCAA does ask about parking around the stadium, but the traffic thing really doesn’t factor in. It would only really factor in at an off-campus site, like a minor league stadium.”