The coronavirus pandemic has altered the college sports landscape in a lot of ways and it will now be a factor in which softball teams get to host the preliminary rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Normally, that is determined solely by performance. The top 16 teams host the four-team Regionals and the top 8 teams that advance host the two-team Super Regionals—a best-of-three series—before moving on to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
This year, in order to allow time for adequate COVID-19 testing, the host sites for Regionals and Supers will be held at predetermined locations, which will be announced on April 26, almost a month before the regular season ends. That means things like lodging space and testing capacity will now factor into the bidding process.
“You may see a team that’s ranked number 21 that might get to host because of these factors,” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said. “I’m not on that committee, and I don’t know what’s going to go on inside that room, but I know that (UA administrator and former softball player) Erika (Barnes) is on that committee and hopefully she will be standing up for what’s right for this sport. I think at the end of the day that’s all we want—is to make sure that the sport and the challenges that you need to go through to get to the College World Series is equitable across the board. And whatever body of work that they’re using, we’ll find out. All you can do is go out and win.”
The Wildcats have placed bids to host both rounds of the postseason. And while you would think they would have a good shot at receiving the NCAA’s blessing because they are currently ranked eighth in the country and have state-of-the-art facilities—including the recently-renovated Hillenbrand Stadium—Candrea isn’t banking on it.
“You would think that, but there’s a lot of nice stadiums around the country now, and everyone kind of thinks that they deserve an opportunity,” he said. “So it just comes down to what they’re looking for and whether we can check every box that they want. But you would hope that your past history might help a little bit.”
Arizona, which has won eight national championships, the second-most in NCAA history, has hosted Regionals every year since 2017 and hosted Super Regionals in 2017 and 2019.