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With Colorado Rockies baseball bringing perpetual heartbreak, it would be nice to have some college alternatives.
But those alternatives are virtually non-existent around the state including the University of Colorado. CU is the only school in the Pac-12 conference without a baseball team.
The absence of baseball wasn’t always the case for CU. Baseball was one of the original sports the university offered at the Division I level starting in the 1890s. Unfortunately, due to budget concerns the school cut six of its varsity sports in 1980. That year, with a $3.2 million budget, the athletic department was $1 million in debt, causing them to eliminate baseball. Also, with the implications of Title IX, the university focused on adding women’s sport.The CU baseball teams played in the Big 8 conference and consistently placed near the bottom of their division.
Sports Information Director David Plati remembers watching CU baseball games where the crowds were no larger than 30 people. Although those games bring back fond memories to Plati, he doesn’t see bringing the sport back as an immediate priority.
“We’re talking years down the road before we can consider it [baseball],” Plati said. “First and foremost we need to get our current sports fully funded. It’s definitely a goal for us to bring it back at some point but there is no plan.”
The current plan for the athletic department is focusing on its 17 sports. Plati said this involves improving travel for student athletes, paying higher salaries for coaches, and increasing facility and recruiting budgets.
After shifting from the Big 12 conference, Plati said the department will not see any Pac-12 money until June 2013. According to him, the first Pac-12 checks CU will receive is in the $20 million range. The department hasn’t seen any money from the Big 12 conference in two years, while the Pac-12 payment this year is miniscule.
“We’re kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Plati said. “I’ve gone without an assistant for two years. So we’re saving money here and there by not filling some positions. But baseball budgets now, I don’t think anybody is sponsoring baseball for less than a million dollars. There is no sport we could add for $45,000, not this day and age. “
Associate Athletic Director Jim Senter said the biggest challenge of bringing baseball back is that the school is not in the Sun Belt region where many ball players want to be.
“The fact that the weather is a challenge and the recruiting base isn’t as strong as it needs to be, those are the biggest deterrents in fielding a championship baseball program,” Senter said. “But saying that, I think having college baseball here would just be wonderful.”
Senter stressed that the university has no obligation of adding sports once joining the Pac-12 conference but said the athletic department has spoken extensively about bringing baseball back to the university. The university did decide to bring women’s lacrosse over every other sport due to the ability to share facilities with other sports and staying in balance with Title IX.
While baseball might not be a priority for the university, for student Ben Fuchs, baseball is very much alive in Boulder. Fuchs, a history major, is the president and a pitcher for the CU club baseball team. Fuchs said he came to CU because he loved the campus and there was still an opportunity to play ball.
But that opportunity hasn’t always been easy. There is no proper field for the team to play on. Right now the team practices on a middle school field with an all dirt infield, which the team has to weed and there is no fence in right field. The team plays its games 45 minutes away in Johnstown. Fuchs said the prospect of a Division I team would greatly benefit the club team.
“A Division I team brings facilities and awareness to the sport; I really don’t think there is any down side,” Fuchs said. “Maybe the club team could be a feeder to the Varsity team. If there wasn’t baseball in Boulder, I probably would not have come to school here.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ben Macaluso at Ben.firstname.lastname@example.org.