Big Ten baseball and softball teams will be limited to conference-only seasons next spring, according to a national report.
D1Baseball.com reported the scheduling news Friday, which would drastically alter the 2021 campaigns for both programs. The outlet also said the league will require bus travel to all games and will allow the addition of other Big Ten opponents to count as “nonconference games” in order to play as many times as possible.
All baseball and softball teams saw their seasons come to an abrupt end in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the United States. League baseball teams typically play 24-game conference schedules and can play as many as 56 games overall in a season. Big Ten softball teams typically have a 23-game conference slate.
Removing nonconference opponents will be especially hard for Nebraska, which already had a limited pool of nearby opponents for midweek baseball games. Beyond annual matchups with Creighton and UNO, regular foes usually include Kansas State (130 miles away), Kansas (200 miles) and Wichita State (277).
Meanwhile, Big Ten-only scheduling won’t be easy for the Huskers, either. As the conference’s westernmost school, the closest destinations are Iowa City (300 miles) and Minneapolis (433). The rest are at least eight-hour trips by bus.
Athletic department budgets everywhere are taking hits in the tens of millions of dollars, so limiting costs will be especially critical for sports that don’t generate profit.
Nebraska baseball lost more than $1.36 million in 2018-19, which marked its largest deficit in the last seven years. The program in 2017-18 lost $335,539, representing its best financial performance in that span. The difference came largely from increased expenses for travel ($313,247 to $602,443) and meals ($48,849 to $193,252) along with a decrease in private contributions ($707,816 to $209,511).
NU softball lost nearly $1.85 million in 2018-19, when it spent $348,260 on travel, including trips for nonconference games in Texas, California and North Carolina.
“Regardless of what goes on, I think we’re all going to be much more mindful when it comes to making sure we’re financially responsible,” NU baseball coach Will Bolt told The World-Herald in May.
NU’s three money-making sports are football ($59.76 million profit in 2018-19), men’s basketball ($5.86 million) and volleyball ($212,061).
Bolt said Friday morning in a scheduled Zoom call he was unaware of any decisions about the 2021 schedule.
“I don’t know what it’s going to look like, quite frankly,” he said.