Scooter Hobbs: ACC-SEC challenge may be the future of CWS

Published 11:15 am Sunday, June 16, 2024

By now surely you have realized that only two conferences are represented at this year’s College World Series in Omaha.

It’s the first time that has happened since 1948, and that year would need a substantial asterisk.

There were two teams in the CWS that year, Yale and Southern Cal, so they still fairly well maxed out with two conferences.

Email newsletter signup

For that matter, it wasn’t even in Omaha, Nebraska, which should prompt another asterisk — if you weren’t in Omaha, it shouldn’t count. It was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where the whole thing started the previous year and it would be in Wichita, Kansas, the following year.

Then everybody came to their senses for the 1950 affair and it moved to Omaha, where it has been ever since and where it belongs forever and a day and also where Barrett’s Barleycorn has been catering to LSU fans since the Tigers’ first trip in 1987.

But back to 1948 when, whatever the CWS lacked in conferences, it made up for it in future presidents as George H.W. Bush was a first baseman for the Yalies.

Yale would later name its baseball stadium after the Big W, and later years he kept his old first sacker’s mitt tucked away in the his desk in the Oval Office.

That little trip down Trivia Lane was a roundabout way to jump-start discussion of where the College World Series is headed.

Well, it has been headed south and mostly southeast for a while now and this year is just the culmination of the trend.

They split it up evenly — four teams in Omaha from the Atlantic Coast Conference, four from the Southeastern Conference.

I counted them — that’s two conferences accounting for eight teams.

The ACC-SEC Challenge, as it were.

The SEC had a chance to break its own record of four teams in Omaha until Georgia lost to North Carolina State Monday night.

That left it all square, the SEC with Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M and a surprise cameo from Florida. The ACC ends up with North Carolina, N.C. State, Florida State and Virginia.

You might want to get used to it. If you were going to narrow it down, that sounds about right. Those are the two leagues where baseball really matters, except for one thing — you could have knocked me down with a soft knuckleball, buckled me at the absolute kneecaps, to learn that the ACC has had only two baseball national championships in its entire existence.

That doesn’t sound right — let alone that one of them has come since 1955. That would be Virginia in 2015.

Don’t throw Miami at me. The Hurricanes’ last national title came in 2001, three years before the school joined the ACC.

Or Florida State — the Seminoles have never won the big prize. It just seems like, for all the times they hung around Omaha, they should have.

Again, look it up — nada.

Yet if one of those four SEC teams wins it all this year — any of those four — it will make five different SEC teams to win it all in the last five College World Series.

Kentucky’s appearance this year completed the category for the SEC — all 14 teams have now made it to Omaha.

That’s what you call a deep rotation, pretty good bullpen too.

Baseball doesn’t recognize the word “upset” — at least my baseball doesn’t — but there will be a few surprises in the coming years.

The fickleness of the game is set up to accommodate the occasional Coastal Carolina or Pepperdine.

But what power conferences will consistently compete with the SEC and, assuming it adds to its war chest, the ACC?

The Pac-12 was a frequent competitor through the years, but — oh, wait — it ceased to exist, closed up shop and held a garage sale, when Kentucky eliminated Oregon State.

The most consistent Pac-12 program in recent years has been Stanford — which is taking the cross-country leap of faith to join the ACC. For that matter, so is Cal, which — trivia alert! — beat Bush’s Yale team in the inaugural CWS in 1947.

Forget the Big Ten. Very much alive. But it never was a player on the diamond. Probably weather related. It has had only two teams even reach Omaha in the last 40 years. Its last national champion was 58 years ago, Ohio State in 1966.

The Big 12, rumored to be seeking a corporate sponsor to sell the name of its own conference — The Whataburger 12, perhaps? — could still compete. But two of its best traditional baseball teams, Texas and Oklahoma, are headed to the SEC.

That pretty much leaves it to the SEC and the ACC, where they still play hardball.

And one last thing. It says here that Sunday night’s Tennessee-North Carolina game will determine the eventual national champion.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at