Ron Prettyman will bring a unique perspective to his job of being the NCAA official in charge of the College World Series.
“I’ve seen this event from a lot of different angles,” he said. “From being a spectator to a parent of a player to a parent of a coach to being on the baseball committee to now this capacity.”
Through it all, he said, his experience in Omaha has been positive, thus his decision to pursue the opportunity to continue to be a part of the College World Series.
The NCAA named Prettyman its managing director of championships and alliances in December. Prettyman will oversee the operation and management of multiple NCAA championships, including the CWS.
He also will serve as the primary NCAA staff liaison for the Division I Football Oversight Committee.
Prettyman took over Jan. 4. He and key staff members were in Omaha on Tuesday for a meet-and-greet with local media members. They’ll make a site visit at TD Ameritrade Park on Wednesday.
Prettyman is already well aware what Omaha’s downtown ballpark has to offer. He has fond memories at Rosenblatt Stadium, the event’s former home and where he watched son Ronnie help Cal State Fullerton win the 2004 national championship.
“We have a lot of great memories from Rosenblatt but I don’t think there’s anything nicer than what we’ve got here at TD Ameritrade,” Prettyman said. “This is as good as any major league ballpark, just a little smaller.
“It’s as first-class as you’ll ever want to have for a national championship event. Our student-athletes get to experience a top-of-the-line, first-class facility.’’
Prettyman replaced Damani Leech, who served two years as the CWS director before taking an executive position with the NFL. Like his predecessors, Leech was an NCAA staffer who rose through the ranks.
Prettyman’s involvement with intercollegiate athletics has been from the opposite side of the fence. He’s spent the past 33 years serving as the athletic director at several Division I and II institutions, including the last 10½ years at Indiana State.
“I never thought I wouldn’t be an athletics director,” he said. “When this opportunity came along with the challenges it presented as well as the exciting opportunities it presented, I just felt like it was something I needed to explore.”
Running the CWS is one of the most exciting aspects of his new position, Prettyman said. Having been a member of the Division I Baseball Committee the past two years, Prettyman knows the event that has called Omaha home since 1950 is one of the NCAA’s showcase events.
He considers the relationship the NCAA has with the City of Omaha and College World Series of Omaha Inc., as one of the event’s great strengths.
“There is nothing we (NCAA) probably do that’s any more successful than the College World Series,” he said. “Especially with the partnership with the folks in Omaha.”
Observing how the event runs will be one of Prettyman’s priorities this first year.
“I’ve told a lot of folks that I was going to watch and I was going to listen and I was going to learn,’’ he said. “That’s how I’ve always done when I’ve made changes in my career. I’m not one to change something just for the sake of change.
“And I’m certainly not in a position in my tenure at the NCAA to say I want to change this and this and this. If we need to make changes and tweak some things, we’ll do that in the future. Right now, I’m pretty excited about the way things are.’’
There will be one change at this year’s CWS — the NCAA will sell alcohol to the general public. World-Herald files indicate alcohol sales were permitted in the early years of the CWS but were eliminated in 1963.
Alcohol sales were permitted two years ago in suites and in the club level with certain restrictions. The NCAA announced last month that this year fans can purchase alcohol throughout the stadium.
“That will be interesting,” Prettyman said. “It was something that was certainly in the works long before I got here, but I think we’re responding to the fans and their desires.
“All the studies have shown that by serving alcohol in-house that there are far less problems than you have when people bring it in or smuggle it in or binge drinking before they come in.”
The NCAA also approved alcohol sales at its softball championship in Oklahoma City as part of a one-year pilot program.
“We’ll see how it works and then reevaluate it,’’ Prettyman said.
Although Prettyman said he loved what he was doing, he is looking forward to his new NCAA responsibilities, especially those that pertain to Omaha.
“It’s no secret that I love college baseball,” he said. “My son had a great experience playing college baseball. Watching him win the national championship obviously was the highlight of our trips here.
“It was fun because I was truly just a dad and a spectator. I didn’t have to care how the event was being run or if the umpires were doing a good job or not. It was a lot of fun.”
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