LINCOLN — What started as Nebraska's mad scramble to fill an unexpectedly vacant weekend has evolved into a premier showcase of the state's top college baseball programs.
But this weekend's TD Ameritrade Classic may just be a one-hit wonder.
The final product has appeal: Seven games between four teams over three days at the site of the College World Series — with NU-Creighton as the headliner matchup Friday night.
But the somewhat serendipitous circumstances that led to this inaugural tournament are what jeopardize its future.
“I'd like to see it take off. Maybe it will,” said Butch Hug, the Nebraska associate athletic director who helped orchestrate much of the event's behind-the-scenes construction. “A whole lot of dominoes fell into place for us. We'll see how this goes.”
It was back in August when a Husker opponent backed out of a non-conference series. So Hug started polling college baseball programs for interest (85 total by the end of it all).
Then a Creighton opponent just so happened to bail, leaving an opening for that same April weekend NU was looking to fill.
The two in-state rivals moved their midweek matchup to Friday night and eventually found two more willing participants, Oklahoma State and Rutgers. Nebraska officials secured the umpires, coordinated with hotels and worked with MECA to organize staffing at TD Ameritrade Park.
Hug compared it to the logistical responsibilities of hosting an NCAA Regional. He's helped plan a half-dozen of those at Haymarket Park.
But in this case, the NCAA's not placing the teams. Most of college baseball is deep conference play.
And that's the hiccup going forward, CU coach Ed Servais said.
The Jays will only have six weekends of conference baseball when they move to the Big East next season. But that schedule has yet to be released. Same for Nebraska's 2014 Big Ten slate.
“It just so happens Creighton and Nebraska were open this weekend,” Servais said. “I don't know how many more times that will happen but I'm sure there will be people looking into it. Hopefully, if we can have a successful weekend here, MECA and both institutions will look at doing this again.”
Nebraska coach Darin Erstad would be open to that idea, though he'd prefer it to be a little earlier in the season.
The Huskers will play four games in three days this weekend, which isn't exactly ideal for the Big Ten's second-place squad as it prepares for its stretch run. Final exams are next week, too.
But move the event into March and you start risking cancellations. The Huskers and Jays are still working to reschedule an April 9 game postponed by weather.
“From a fan experience — nice weather, having us and Creighton there, with a couple of quality teams — that's a no-brainer for me to do something like this,” Erstad said. “But with the way all the conferences now are going to bigger conference schedules, it's just almost going to be impossible to match up the bye weeks exactly.”
Contact the writer:
402-473-9585, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/JonNyatawa