Bemoaning the absence of a varsity DU baseball team

Courtesy of Doug Pensinger / Getty Images | Pictured in 2011 with the Pittsburgh Pirates in a game against the Colorado Rockies, pitcher Joe Beimel is the last Duquesne descendant to play in MLB.

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

04/05/2018

I was perusing The Buffalo News’ sports page one morning this past weekend when I unexpectedly came upon a brief Atlantic 10 baseball update, detailing how nearby St. Bonaventure’s program was faring. The Bonnies began A-10 play 0-4, but then beat Massachusetts in back-to-back games to salvage their series this past weekend, improving their record to 2-4 in conference.

The article caught me by surprise, as I struggle to always affiliate baseball with the A-10, and vice versa. However, that’s not because the league’s baseball reputation is especially lacking; instead, it’s because Duquesne is the only institution of the conference’s 14 full member schools that does not field a varsity baseball team. It hasn’t since the sport was nixed following the 2010 season. Only a sophomore here on the Bluff, I don’t even remember a time when Duquesne did have a baseball team.

At a school so landlocked that it can barely fit its own football team on campus, I understand why baseball just wasn’t meant to be here. Even as the team had found a capable home off campus at nearby Green Tree Park, non-revenue sports played off of campus are generally drags for athletic departments to supply — especially when those programs struggle immensely. Mike Wilson, the team’s manager for the final 17 years of its existence, stated several times that he felt as if he put more work into managing facilities than he did his own team.

With insufficient resources for a program that wasn’t bringing a substantial return on investment back to the school, Duquesne saw discontinuation as the optimal next step for the program, and cut wrestling, men’s golf and men’s swimming, as well, in an effort to “strategically reallocate” the department’s funds, according to then-Athletic Director Greg Amodio.

Furthermore, the school had to comply with Title IX rules that called for men’s programs to be cut. Since a majority of Duquesne’s student population is female (roughly 60 percent), the school’s number of opportunities, per gender, should mirror that. It does now, as 11 of the school’s 17 varsity sports are women’s.

Within the past year, Duquesne has heavily invested into its basketball program, and the rewards of that commitment are now just beginning to materialize. It makes perfect sense for an institution of Duquesne’s repute to invest in basketball, as there are countless examples of other schools similar to Duquesne’s build that make serious money because of the success of their basketball teams.

Courtesy of Saint Louis Athletics | Junior Saint Louis pitcher Ryan Lefner, one of the Billikens’ most reliable arms in the bullpen, throws during a game versus Oakland earlier this season. 18-9 overall and 5-1 in the Atlantic 10, Saint Louis currently sits atop the conference’s standings ahead of a weekend series against Massachusetts (9-9, 2-4 A-10).

In the northeastern part of the United States, basketball is especially popular, and Duquesne has a wonderful opportunity to finally make the NCAA Tournament in the coming years for the first time since 1977. As we saw recently with Loyola-Chicago, surprise March Madness success can provide smaller schools with an enormous amount of national attention, infinitely benefiting the school itself.

Duquesne is wise to push most of its money allocated for athletics into the basketball program, as the team’s inevitable, eventual success will lucratively reward the school for its investments.

But, man, if only the school’s baseball team just didn’t have to die so that the basketball program could live.

The Duquesne baseball program struggled mightily toward the end of its tenure, finishing the 2010 season an awful 16-40 with a 10-17 mark in the A-10. With no momentum, nowhere to play on campus and evidently no money, it was destined for Duquesne’s baseball program to die. Even though other northern schools of similar stature are able to make it work, college baseball is better suited for southern schools, where the weather is warmer and the sport is more embedded into the culture of the region.

Even if other smaller schools in the northeast do field successful baseball teams, I do not think it’s necessarily wrong for Duquesne to not field a varsity team.

Regardless — it still makes me sorrowful.

Even though the team was able to play at Green Tree Park, the sport probably wouldn’t have been cut if the school had an on-campus baseball field for the team to use. If it did, the athletic department wouldn’t have had to pay rent, and the team wouldn’t have had to travel away from campus to play, or maintain a field that was not exclusively its own. Furthermore, the sport would have had the opportunity to generate human traffic on campus, and thus, bring the school another revenue stream.

But that’s not the reality for land-strapped Duquesne — and that’s OK. I’ll trade a bad off-campus baseball team for a legitimate, competitive basketball program any day. I just wish I didn’t have to pick.

Last updated 04/20/2018 at 2:09 a.m.

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