Lafayette, Louisiana, is about three and a half hours from Jackson, Mississippi, which could be considered the geographic middle of the Mississippi State fanbase. For those of you who may not be as familiar with MSU baseball, three and a half hours is nothing to drive for a large portion of the ultra-dedicated baseball contingency that bleed maroon and white. So you can imagine how excited State fans were when the NCAA baseball committee announced that Mississippi State would be heading to the UL-Lafayette Regional to face off with the Ragin' Cajuns and two other teams this year. I even prognosticated Saturday that it was a too-good-to-be-true scenario for State fans because of the ease of access from Jackson and other major Bulldog hubs in the state.
Boy, was I wrong.
Not about the access State fans would easily have to Lafayette, but about how much access we would get to M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field. Shortly after regional announcements, UL-L made public that they would fill ticket requests first from their season ticket holders and then from Ragin' Cajun Foundation members. That's understandable; the Cajuns are the nation's #6 overall seed, and they were a unanimous #1 when the final college baseball polls of the regular season were released today. So they're plenty deserving to have first crack at the tickets; the issue is with how many they'd leave for the rest of us.
How many did they leave? Uh, how about none, at least for now.
That's right: The 3,755 seat Moore Field has no more ticket packages for sale as of last evening. The only tickets remaining for the whole tournament will be general admission FOR NON RAGIN CAJUN GAMES. That means that if MSU or San Diego State makes the Saturday night game against the Cajuns, or a Sunday championship matchup to send a team to the super regionals, well SORRY! You'll just have to wait outside and drink beer in the parking lot if you're a non-ULL fan.
At first when I read the tweets from the school's athletics department, I was mad at them. What kind of b.s. is this for them to host a regional and then have zero, ZERO tickets to offer anyone not wearing home-standing red this weekend? But then I thought about it a little more. The problem isn't UL-L.
The problem is with the NCAA, and more specifically, the selection committee. Anyone deemed knowledgeable enough on college baseball to be elected to that committee should know that MSU's fanbase is one of the best traveling in the country. We may not be on the level of Kentucky basketball fans, but for baseball fans we take a good many warm bodies to any regional or big game. Just ask SEC Tournament officials about the years we played well into the weekend. So I'm just a little confused as to why the selection committee - again, supposedly knowledgeable on college baseball - would send the Bulldogs to a regional that close to home where the average attendance is 101% of capacity.
Teams hosting regionals and not having them at neutral sites is one of the things I love most about the college baseball postseason. There's an atmosphere at those games that you wouldn't get at a neutral site, and I hope that doesn't change anytime soon. The problem, though, is that in basketball or football, teams split ticket allotments for games at the neutral sites. With baseball, it's all about the host team, and whatever else is left can be divided amongst the remaining three teams. I believe there are 200 or so tickets set aside for each team, but those are mostly gobbled up by the parents of players, which is understandable as well. However that leaves everyone else without.
Since this issue came up last night, I perused several message boards to gauge the overall fan reaction to this situation. Besides the "we should've won more games then we could have hosted" response, most fans seemed split over whether or not the ticket situation was an injustice. The good news is that Cajun fans took to Elitedawgs to offer to sell their tickets to non-ULL games, which is better than nothing. I imagine that State fans who show up to the stadium will find tickets here or there, but that's a long way to drive for some with no way to get in guaranteed.
Again, I don't lay blame on UL-Lafayette because they deserve to get first crack at tickets. It just seems like, given the impressive attendance figures that Lafayette pulls down and the way that State travels, the NCAA should have seen this potential issue and sent a smaller traveling #2 seed to Lafayette. The Carskadon brothers even mentioned how State and Alabama (Tallahassee Regional) should have been swapped, and I tend to agree with that. That's a bit more of a drive for Alabama fans, and the geography balances out more if you swap the two. Plus the majority of Alabama fans are more concerned with counting down the days until kickoff than following baseball that far from home.
In the end, MSU fan upheaval means next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. The field of 64 will go on, and State certainly isn't the only team with a gripe about something. Ask Miami about nearly being a national seed but getting paired with the #2 seed Florida for supers. Ask Washington about nearly hosting but then getting shipped across country to Oxford. Ask Indiana fans about how awful it is to live in Indiana. There is plenty of injustice to go around, so we aren't unique in our plight. All we can do is hope that our team goes down and plays like it did in the 2013 postseason and that the 15 State fans who say screw it and put climbing stands in the outfield trees aren't mistaken for wildlife by a wild game official attending the regional.
There may not be enough tickets for us, but I doubt that keeps a lot of State fans from showing up and having a good time anyways.