When the Big 12 Tournament bracket was released, revealing a first-round Bedlam clash at 9 a.m., heads dropped all around, particularly in camps of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fans.
And at the All Sports Association.
The early start on a Wednesday work day makes it hard on Bedlam fans, likely leading to a significantly smaller crowd than an evening or even afternoon game would have attracted.
And for the All Sports Association, the tournament host, that means fewer tickets and concessions sold. And it means a lost chance at the kind of spotlight game capable of confirming how people in Oklahoma feel about the tournament being here — and staying here.
“That's just the way the bracket is set up,” said Tim Brassfield, executive director of the All Sports Association. “We don't set the times, we host the event and we run the event.
“Of course, it is not ideal. It's unfortunate for the fans who can't come out.”
Sources told The Oklahoman that there were conversations about moving the Bedlam game into a more prominent time slot, but a compromise couldn't be reached.
The double-elimination format is set up to reward the No. 1 seed, allowing that team an opportunity for extended rest following its opener and with the potential for more games. Previously, when the tournament was played in a pool format, guidelines were added to allow for slotting OU or OSU into later start times.
OKCPD ADDRESSES GATHERING
Capt. Dan Martin of the Oklahoma City Police Department addressed the Big 12 coaches during Tuesday's luncheon after eight people were shot just outside the ballpark shortly after the Thunder game ended Monday night.
“I just want to stress to anybody while you're here, if there's any thoughts of your safety and security issues here, not to worry,” Martin said. “Bricktown has always been a safe environment and it still is.”
Martin called the incident “random” and “isolated.”
HEANEY NAMED PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Oklahoma State starter Andrew Heaney was named the Big 12's Pitcher of the Year by the conference's coaches.
Heaney is 8-1 and has limited hitters to a .183 average.
“My first two years, I started off hot and faltered down the stretch. Knowing that I kept it up and haven't let my team down so far and have been able to give us a chance to win has felt good,” Heaney said. “My freshman year, I just didn't have the durability or the strength. I wasn't strong enough. I really couldn't last a whole season. Last year, I think I was almost there and I just started pressing a little bit going into the Big 12 thinking I had to do more than I really needed to.
“I just know this year just to relax and let it happen and not try to do too much.”
Baylor's Josh Ludy was named the player of the year, Baylor's Nathan Orf the newcomer of the year, Texas' Parker French the freshman of the year and Baylor's Steve Smith the coach of the year.
Heaney and OU's Max White were named to the All-Big first team. OSU's Robbie Rea and Randy McCurry and OU's Erik Ross and Jordan John made the second team.
In its history, the Big 12 has never sent less than five teams to the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
But barring a lengthy run by a lower seed in Oklahoma City this weekend, that impressive streak is likely to end.
The lingering reason for its possible extinction stems from the Big 12's weak RPI — a fact that doesn't sit well with OSU's Frank Anderson.
“I'm not sure why that is, to be honest with you,” Anderson said. “I've been in the league since '97, and the pitching overall, depth-wise and quality, might be as good as it has ever been.”
Overall, the conference has 15 pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs.
“Almost every team has a guy that could pitch in the major leagues,” Anderson said. “That wasn't always the case. … So I think from a pitching standpoint, this is the best it has ever been.”
FAREWELL MIZZOU, A&M
As an annual tradition, each Big 12 coach gave a short speech at Tuesday's media luncheon, consisting of season summaries, congratulations and innocent jokes.
But unlike years past, there was a somber tone near the end of each brief statement.
With conference realignment set to take effect July 1, this would be the last Big 12 gathering for Missouri and Texas A&M.
A&M's Rob Childress and MU's Tim Jamieson reflected back and thanked the conference. Opposing coaches shared stories and wished them well.
“It's been a tremendous honor for me to be a part of this conference,” Jamieson said. “I know that where we are headed will be a challenge, but I guarantee you that the experience I've had over the past 24 years in the Big 8 and Big 12 will not be near to what they are in the future.”