There’s plenty to keep University of South Alabama Director of Athletics Dr. Joel Erdmann busy these days. That’s always the case during the spring sports season. But Erdmann has additional responsibilities as well. The leader of the Jaguars’ athletics program also serves on the NCAA’s Division I baseball selection committee, the group charged with presenting the at-large berths for the 64-team tournament.
This is Erdmann’s third year of a four-year term on the committee. This year, as chairman of the South Region and vice-chairman for the West Region, he has extra duties within the committee. It marks his first year as a chairman; he was co-chair of the West Region last year.
The Southeastern Conference, Sun Belt Conference (of which South Alabama is a member) and Atlantic Sun are the conferences that make up the South Region. Each conference selects a designated coach to offer “on the ground” analysis of the teams in their respective leagues and take part in regular conference calls with the chair and vice-chair in each of the regions so the chairpersons will have a better understanding of the teams they represent, Erdmann said.
“They give us information that they receive from other coaches in their conferences and provide information other than the traditional information that is available to us,” he added.
That information might include teams that are on hot streaks or the return of a player or players who may impact the success of a team.
“Basically, they help us rank teams within the conference and within the region,” Erdmann said. “We take that information, collate it and summarize it and I’ll take it to (NCAA headquarters in) Indianapolis on Championship Weekend.”
Championship Weekend is set Memorial Day weekend, with each of the committee members sequestered in a room going over each of the viable teams being considered for at-large berths to the tournament, as well as seeding the teams and determining each of the regional tournament sites.
This year, Erdmann’s task becomes a bit more personal as South Alabama, currently in first place in the Sun Belt Conference, is considered a candidate for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. If the Jags win the Sun Belt tournament, set to be played at Troy University next week, they will receive the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. It’s the league’s only guaranteed spot in the tournament. But having Erdmann on the committee and serving as the South Region chair won’t guarantee South Alabama earns an at-large berth if needed.
“Since I have an affiliation with a team and a region, when South Alabama comes up in the conversation, I have to recuse myself and leave the room,” Erdmann said. “That’s another time when the vice-chair takes over.”
Erdmann, who played and coached college baseball before becoming an administrator, said he enjoys the work and process.
“It adds a level of responsibility, not just to organize things and gather information, but also to summarize it,” Erdmann said of the requirements of being a regional chairman. “There’s a chair and vice-chair, and that’s to make sure there’s an objective aspect to everything and there is no bias … When we go to Indianapolis, I speak on behalf of those conferences and teams … If you want to do it right, it takes a lot of work, but it’s fun. It’s a lot of numbers-crunching and a lot of looking at lineups and everything. When you have a love for the game of college baseball and an obligation to reward good baseball, it really is fun.”
Erdmann said because of his involvement with the selection committee, he views games a bit differently now.
“You really have an obligation to look at the game itself from 30,000 feet, and for the good of the game now and in the future,” he said. “I find that very enjoyable because you are charged with making sure the game is in good hands and whether we’re picking the field of 64 and ranking the tournament or making recommendations for playing rules for the game. We’re an advisory board.”
Jags win Sun Belt title again
The USA softball team, ranked No. 23 in the country, beat No. 10-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference softball tournament at Texas State University May 9 to win the league’s tournament crown for the third time in four years. The win earned the Jags the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, which begins this week. It marks the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth for the Jags.
South Alabama will open NCAA play in the Auburn Regional when the Jags join No. 4 tournament overall seed Auburn, the region’s top seed, as well as Tennessee Tech and Chattanooga in the four-team, double-elimination tournament. The Jags (38-11), coached by Becky Clark, will face Chattanooga (35-13) in a 3 p.m. game Friday in Auburn, with Auburn (49-9) facing Tennessee Tech (32-26) in a 5:30 p.m. game. Chattanooga defeated the Jags 3-1 in the South Alabama Invitational tournament at Jaguar Field in February.
The winner of the Auburn Regional advances to a Super Regional against the winner from the Louisiana-Lafayette Regional and that winner moves on to the Women’s College World Series.