Yesterday, the NCAA announced in 2008, the College World Series would begin on a Saturday and be extended for two days by converting a midweek elimination session doubleheader into single game sessions on two evenings. The real winner here? ESPN. The loser? Omaha fans.
Eliminating a midweek doubleheader is a bit of a positive for fans, but it's countered by the very real possibility that the stadium could be empty the second weekend of the series. The off-day in the series will now be on Sunday, and the "if necessary" games would be played on Saturday. Now, instead of the championship series beginning on Saturday, it will begin on a Monday. Imagine that... no baseball on the weekend???
These changes are being driven both directly and indirectly by ESPN. ESPN's television college has pushed some of the Super Regionals to finish on Monday, which makes it a tight schedule for the winner to get to Omaha, especially if weather affects a super regional, like this season's Oregon State-Michigan series. So moving the series to Saturday helps the teams in situations like this.
ESPN also gets more weeknight series games, with the championship series now being on weeknights with one fewer conflict with their Sunday night baseball game. So you could say that college baseball gets better exposure.
And with the series lasting two extra days, it's probably good news for Omaha's hotels and restaurants. Fans who know their team might be in the championship series by Friday might be persuaded to spend the weekend travelling to Omaha, so you might find tourism up.
How will this work? In recent years, I've wondered if the day off makes the series "too long" and gets people out of following the series. Moving that interruption to the weekend will only serve to highlight that interruption. A key focus item for the City to make this work is to find some sort of activity to keep fans occupied that 2nd weekend.