Wichita State athletic director Eric Sexton thinks bid standards that lump Hammons Field and Eck Stadium in the same category with smaller Missouri Valley Conference baseball fields aren’t really standards.
The criteria for hosting the MVC Tournament needs to be strengthened, in Sexton’s mind. Illinois State’s Bass Field will hold next week’s tournament and Indiana State’s Warn Field is the 2014 site, as announced last week. While those fields may check all the boxes on the bid form, in real life they are far different from the best and biggest parks in the conference (a list that includes recently renamed Dozer Park in Peoria, Ill.).
Capacity, chairback seats, locker rooms, training rooms, restrooms, fan amenities, press boxes. Hammons and Eck (Bradley is not interested in hosting) are better equipped in all areas to handle a championship event.
“We need to reevaluate the standards,” Sexton said. “From my perspective, the facilities that have been getting the bids have been meeting the minimum standards.”
Minimum doesn’t scream “championship caliber” or “best experience for a student-athlete” to Sexton, not in a conference that professes to consider baseball an important sport. The contrast between hosting history and the new direction grows greater when Omaha’s 24,000-seat T.D. Ameritrade Park (the 2011 host) is part of the picture.
“We need to be sure we listen to the student-athletes and in their surveys, they talk about the experience,” Sexton said. “They want a first-class experience and to play in a major type of facility.”
He is glad other schools are upgrading facilities. He understands why conference members want to reward Illinois State and Indiana State for improvements. However, WSU has not hosted since 2010 and won’t until at least 2015. Missouri State’s Hammons Field hosted in 2012.
“It is a testament to the commitment that all the other schools have been making,” he said. “We can celebrate their investments without punishing others. We need to do this in a way that grows the sport in our conference without rejecting those that have made long-term investments.”
Conference schools — not conference officials — vote on championship sites. Commissioner Doug Elgin, on Thursday, assured Shocker fans the tournament will soon return to Eck Stadium. Sexton is hoping for 2015.
“Our fans want to have championships at our facilities,” he said.
Golf trail — Sexton’s job as a member of the NCAA men’s golf committee is filling his travel schedule. His biggest job is to prepare for the 2014 NCAA Championships, hosted by WSU, at Hutchinson’s Prairie Dunes Country.
He spent last week as a site representative in Baton Rouge, La., at an NCAA regional, coincidentally where WSU played. Later this month, he will go to Atlanta for the NCAA Championship at the Capital City Club. Director of facilities Mike Sandbo and assistant director of media relations Brian Petrotta will join him in Atlanta. Their time in Atlanta serves as a starting point for organizing the tournament in Hutchinson.
“We’ll learn from their experience on how to administer this championship,” he said. “We’ll be looking at all the back-hall logistics. Looking at what are the volunteer needs, timing and hospitality.”
The Golf Channel, for the first time, will air the championship from Prairie Dunes. The format brings 30 teams and six individuals to play 54 holes of stroke play to narrow the field and crown a medalist. The top eight teams finish with three rounds of match play.
Prairies Dunes’ experience with big events, such as the 2002 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open, is a great starting point for WSU’s task.
“They understand what it is to host national championships,” Sexton said. “And we’ve got a community here (at WSU) that has done some of this, and we’ll be able to tap in those folks as well.”
Five for fitness — Shocker Fitness is entering its fifth summer. Track and field coach Steve Rainbolt created the community fitness program and watched it grow to a consistent 100-150 participants, sometimes more, for each 10-week session.
“It’s a terrific group of people of all fitness levels,” Rainbolt said. “People have had a lot of fun.”
The summer session begins May 27, with hour-long workouts beginning at 5:30 a.m., 7 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Cost is $55.
Rainbolt is adding Summer Blast, program of games, circuits and relays designed for ages 7-11 and 12-16. The 10-week session runs from 8:30-9:30 a.m. three days a week. Cost is $120. It begins May 29 and ends Aug. 2.
For information call 316-978-5543.
Around the MVC — MVC men’s basketball teams wrapped up the spring signing period with additions last week.
Illinois State completed a dramatic overhaul by adding 6-foot-7 forward MiKyle McIntosh from 22ft Academy and Breathitt County High in Kentucky. Southern Illinois signed rising sophomore guard Marcus Fillyaw from Cloud County Community College and Topeka High.
Indiana State needs size and landed 6-foot-8 forward Demetrius Moore from Northwest Florida State College.
Guard Christian Benzon, from The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., signed with Evansville. Bradley added 6-foot-9 post Xzavier Taylor from Chicago’s Morgan Park High.• Former Illinois State forward Jackie Carmichael was one of 60 players to participate in the NBA Draft Combine last week in Chicago. ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks hin as the No. 48 pick and the fifth-best power forward.
• Missouri State will complete JQH Arena’s basketball facilities with men’s and women’s locker room and offices. The $3.7 million project will be completed by November.
• Northern Iowa will play in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands in November. The Panthers open against Loyola Marymount and will play either Marist or Maryland in the second round. La Salle, Providence, Vanderbilt and Morgan State complete the field.