A UW-Madison club baseball coach pitched an idea to bring varsity baseball back to the university’s list of Division One sports for the first time since 1991.
Jeff Block, head coach and one of the founding members of the club baseball team, published a petition online early this week calling on Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez to reinstate baseball as a varsity sport. After four days of being live the petition already has more than 1,000 signatures.
Block said he has asked for meetings in the past to discuss this possibility, but was not successful. Years ago he wrote a rough proposal, which was released in spring 2016, that accomplished his goal—to gain attention from the media, and, in turn, catch the university’s focus. Alvarez responded to him, but still would not agree to a meeting and rejected the idea of forming a varsity baseball team.
“We now have one of the most successful club organizations in the country in the most popular and expansive club sport in the country, yet we haven't been able to even have a conversation with the athletic department about bringing back varsity baseball,” Block said.
He is continuing to work “behind the scenes” to make this change happen, and has gained support from public figures such as the former commissioner of baseball.
Block argues in his proposal that UW-Madison should add varsity baseball in order to be “on par” other Big Ten universities, which all offer the sport. He also said a D1 baseball team will please Badger fans, particularly the youth supporters that could look at the players as role models.
The varsity baseball program was cut due to financial concerns. Block said in the proposal that he and supporters have agreed to raise money for team, and does not believe money is an issue as the university is proposing millions of dollars in renovations for Camp Randall. Issues relating to Title IX laws, which involves issues of discrimination based on gender, also resulted in the cutting of the team.
“Most people think that's [Title IX is the] biggest obstacle and it's not,” Block said. “Even though we are extremely compliant as is and wouldn't need to add a women's sport, we probably would look good from a PR perspective … It should also be noted, that there is a case to be made for UW being in worse position with Title IX because we DO NOT have baseball, but have softball.”
Block said a club baseball team will remain if a varsity team is formed. He does not have a set goal for number of signatures on the petitions, but wants enough to show Alvarez that the community wants to reinstate varsity baseball at UW-Madison.
“The petition is meant to catch [Alvarez’s] attention again and let him know that it's not just me and a handful of others that want this, but thousands … There is a way forward and it starts with an open and honest meeting about what needs to be done to get baseball back.”
UPDATE Feb. 3, 10:06 a.m. This story was updated to clarify details about the proposal.