Baseball or football? Ask Ole Miss a tough question, Oklahoma fans at the Men’s College World Series

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OMAHA, Nebraska – The popularity of college baseball is a reliable source of consternation among fans and observers of the sport. The reality is that while college baseball has passed the niche status of not so long ago, it is not as lucrative or sought after as football or basketball, the two star men’s sports. at the college level.

In a vacuum, that wouldn’t be particularly notable, but college baseball’s relatively trailing position contrasts with Major League Baseball’s strong and steady draw. While the National Football League is in its own stratosphere, MLB claims to be the #2 team sport in the United States by total revenue (and an occasional claim in the same place when it comes to preferred status among the American population). While the popularity of college football and college basketball roughly follows that of the professional variants, baseball does not.

There are a multitude of reasons for this. One is the strongly regional nature of college baseball. Because the season starts in February, teams from northern climates play the first few weeks on the road almost evenly. At a time when temperatures outside can be described as “baseball worthy,” schools in, say, the Big Ten are about to empty their campuses for summer vacation. It’s much less of an issue in the South, but it certainly dampens college baseball’s popularity outside of the SEC and parts of the Big 12 and ACC.

That said, things are moving in a more positive direction. ESPN has invested in more regular-season college baseball television broadcasts, and a number of name programs have invested in upgraded facilities in recent years. Additionally, the emergence of NIL (name, image, and likeness) revenue streams for players could help college baseball better cope with the reality that Division I teams are getting a measly 11.7 purse with which complete all of their lists.

All of which brings us to the 2022 Men’s College World Series in Omaha and our next trip down memory lane. The CWS Men’s Best-of-Three Final between Ole Miss and Oklahoma began Saturday with Game 1, a 10-3 Ole Miss win that puts them one win away from the first national championship in program history. The series is a game between two pronounced schools of football, which is not that unusual in Omaha. Ole Miss is a resident of the mighty SEC West and has re-emerged as a national semi-power under good-for-business coach Lane Kiffin. On the other side, Oklahoma is blue-blooded college football that’s regularly in the mix for one of the sport’s four (for now) playoff berths. Additionally, Sooner’s enthusiasm has resurfaced since former coach Lincoln Riley’s shock departure to Southern Cal.

So with this football foundation squarely acknowledged, CBS Sports posed a simple hypothetical question to fans of both teams, with some tailgating in Lot D outside Omaha’s Charles Schwab Field and some queuing to enter the game. 1. The question was: If you can choose just one, do you choose for your team to win the college world series you’re in or win the college football national championship in the fall?

This of course lacks the rigor of a scientific survey. The sample size is not pure, in that it is fans who bothered to attend the Men’s College World Series and paid a premium for the privilege. That is, they’re probably inclined to like college baseball a bit, although there’s an uncanny attraction to football if you’re an Ole Miss or OU fan. Even so, it says here that there is enlightenment in casualness – at least enough to warrant those words and that effort. Something like that.

“I’ll take baseball,” said TJ, an OU fan from Arkansas, when asked to choose one national title or the other. “We’ve had success in football. Baseball – I mean, they’ve been good, but I think that would take the baseball team further than the football team.”

OU fan Scott said: “Football. We expect to win everything in football. We’re also big OU softball fans, so getting the ‘double diamond’ win would be monstrous, but we will always be football.”

Scott brought up the fact that Oklahoma softball won the Women’s College World Series this year, which means the Sooners have a strong chance of becoming the first school to win both softball and baseball national championships in the same year. .

“I’m more football,” said Wes, a Sooner supporter who hangs out with Scott. “I think it would be great to win this [the CWS], I really do. But to win it all? Soccer.”

“Both,” Brian attempted to respond in violation of the rules as he worked on the Lot D grill. But then, after a break. “I’m going to take the baseball. So we could have back to back – the softball team and then the baseball team. Nobody did.”

“Baseball,” replied Rodney and Carolyn, OU fans and spouses, almost in unison.

As for why: “Because we do it all the time in football,” Rodney said. “Baseball isn’t as supported in college as football. The OU women won, and if the OU men won, that would be awesome.”

“In baseball, nobody thought they would be here. They earned it,” said Carolyn, who adds that she’s a lifelong resident of Norman, Okla., where OU is located, and an alumnus. “They only have one senior to go with four freshmen and three sophomores [in the lineup]and they work hard to do it.

“I think it’s time for a rally in our baseball program. Football has energy, lots of support, lots of money, lots of donors, a big stadium. Baseball needs a hit. inch, and that’s it.”

For those who matter, it’s four out of six OU fans who choose to win in Omaha rather than win everything in football in a matter of months. Now let’s move on to loyal opposition from the heart of the SEC controlled kingdoms.

“Ole Miss baseball,” said Leigh Ann Haley. “I love baseball.”

It should be noted that there may be some predisposition with Ms. Haley, as her son Harrison pitches for Delta State.

“Football,” said Ole Miss fan Gene Gray. “Let’s beat the hell out of Alabama.”

“I’m going to have to go to football,” said an unnamed nearby Ole Miss fan who pre-starred with Leigh Ann and Gene. “I don’t know, I’m just football. I’ve played it all my life. One of the reasons, you know, is Mississippi State won the natty last year, but they don’t have ever won it in football. It’s bragging rights if we’ve won that in football.”

“I’m going to say because we’re here, we want to win right now — baseball,” said Mandy, an Ole Miss fan from Hattiesburg, Mississippi (home of Southern Miss, which Ole Miss swept in the super regionals).

“I would say I’d rather win the national football championship,” said Mandy’s husband Brad, who approached the matter pragmatically. “It’s because I think we’ll come back here. Our chances of winning a national football championship are much slimmer than going back to Omaha and trying this one again.”

Of the five Ole Miss fans surveyed, two chose baseball’s greatest glory and three went to football. Combine the two population samples and six out of 11 – 54.5% – opted for baseball. Promising? Maybe. To be sure, if you asked a similar question to fans attending the college football championship game, then football would almost certainly be the unanimous answer. That said, this is not a solicitation of the rare “baseball uber all” schools like Vanderbilt and Oregon State. OU and Ole Miss are unmistakably soccer-focused sports institutions, but before the CWS Men’s Finals opened, their supporters leaned toward baseball, albeit barely and perhaps temporarily.

If you’re a college baseball kid, the overlooked middle child among male amateur sports, you’ll take enthusiasm in all its forms.

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