By Keith Antigiovanni
Who said baseball isnt popular in the South? When people think of sports in the southern region of the United States they tend to think football or NASCAR even though college baseball and minor league professional baseball have been popular in the South since the early 1900's.
The success of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in college football is well known among sports fans but the success of the SEC in college baseball the past 23 years has been much more subtle as the conference sent three teams to the College World Series (CWS) for the second straight year.
Eight teams qualify for the CWS in Omaha every year and since 1990 (23 years) the SEC has sent 45 teams out of a possible 184 slots which amounts to almost one quarter. In 2004 the SEC sent half the teams and have sent three teams 6 times (1996, 1997, 1998, 2011, 2012).
An SEC team are the defending back-to-back champions, South Carolina and in 2011 they defeated another SEC team, Florida in the final Series. The LSU Tigers have also been a powerhouse in that span with 12 trips to Omaha and 6 championships (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2009).
Georgia is the only other SEC team to the win the title when they won in 1990 and made the final series in 2008. Every team besides Mississippi and Kentucky have made to the CWS in that time.
What are the keys to the SEC success in college baseball? It could be many things:
1) strong athletic programs
2) enthusiastic fan bases
3) carryover from the college football
4) quality stadiums
While SEC baseball fans cheer on their teams in the month of June the college football season is just over two months away. Will college baseball ever be as popular as college football in the South? Probably not but it seems to be as popular there as anywhere else in the nation.