Over the past 30 years, the Southeastern Conference has become a leader in baseball. Other conferences have had success over their elongated existences but nothing like the rise of the SEC in less than half the span.
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The College World Series began in 1947 as college baseball’s national championship tournament. It has been held in Omaha, Nebraska every year except for Kalamazoo, Michigan 1947-48 and Wichita, Kansas in 1949. In 2020 the tournament was cancelled for the first time since its inception due to COVID-19. Several teams have had notable success in the College World Series including Southern California, Texas, Arizona, Arizona State and Cal State Fullerton. Most of these schools won championships throughout their history for multiple conferences.
USC has won 12 CWS titles in 70 years matching what the entirety of the SEC has done in the last 30 years. They lead all other schools with 12 and help the PAC 12 lead all conferences with 18. While USC has had an impressive run, they have not won in over 20 years (1998).
Texas has won 6 overall with four of them in the Southwest Conference and two in the Big 12, but Texas has not won in 15 years (2005).
Arizona, Arizona St. and Cal State Fullerton won some of their CWS championships in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) while winning others in their current affiliation. The WAC is third in CWS championships with 7 for the aforementioned reasons.
In 1990, the format of the CWS was 48 teams split into 8 six-team Regionals. Each Regional was a double elimination tournament with the 8 winners advancing to Omaha. In 1999 the NCAA expanded the field to the 64 teams we have today. The current format is 16 four-team Regional sites including 8 national seeds who would host Regionals and Super Regionals should they advance.
The Regionals would be double elimination amongst the four teams with the winner advancing to the Super Regionals.
The Super Regionals would be 8 sites of two teams (Sweet 16 in basketball terms) playing a best of 3 series. The 8 winners would advance to the College World Series in Omaha.
The SEC has consistently had 7 teams into regionals over the years and 10 the past two years. As far as participants in the CWS, there have been five times a conference has put in 4 teams to Omaha with the SEC doing it four of the five including 2019. Twelve times has a conference put in 3 teams with the SEC doing that 7 times. All of these benchmarks have happened since 1990 with the frequency increasing exponentially.
Georgia started the championship run with one in 1990 followed by LSU (‘91, ‘93, ’96, ‘97, ‘00 and ‘09). In 1997, the first SEC vs SEC championship takes place with LSU vs. Alabama. From 2009-11, the SEC threepeats as LSU won in 2009 and South Carolina went back to back in 2010 and ‘11 where the second SEC vs SEC CWS Championship with South Carolina vs Florida. Vanderbilt took the crown in 2014 and 2019 with Florida winning in 2017 where, yet again, there was an SEC vs SEC championship series with Florida vs LSU.
So to recount, the SEC has won the College World Series 12 times in the past 30 years. The SEC has sent at least one team to the finals 19 times with three times being 2 SEC teams. Finally, the SEC has had a team in the championship round of the CWS 14 of the last 20 years.
It is clear, the SEC has had a very successful three decades in baseball. Baseball has a much more even playing field with the talent wealth is spread out over a vast amount of schools where places like Coastal Carolina, Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State can win it all.
This year the SEC is poised to make another run at the title with several teams ranked in all the preseason polls including ours here at Southern Slams Baseball. This season would likely see 8-10 teams in Regionals with 3 making the CWS. The boys are back practicing. The calendar has flipped to February. We here at Southern Slams Baseball are pumped for the start of the 2021 season and the end of the longest off season ever.