Time Out: Baseball next to take plunge? The sky isn't falling in the sports world, but credibility quotients everywhere are ramming straight into the ground. The credibility of Formula One racing dropped like Enron stock Sunday when Rubens Barrichello was ordered to relinquish the lead -- and victory in the Austrian Grand Prix -- to F1 points leader and Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher 100 yards from the finish line. Sort of puts the old cliché "no lead is safe" in a whole new perspective. That same day, the credibility of college softball took a high dive off the cliff of common sense when all eight of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament were sent on the road for regional play. The road to Oklahoma City, home of the Women's College World Series, never seemed so twisted. Since bad, weird or otherwise strange things seem to happen in threes, college baseball fans should take note. And take a road map while you're at it. It may just come in handy in a couple of weeks. The sites and 64 teams for the NCAA Tournament will be announced May 27, and already there are rumblings that the insanity wrought in softball could be a cautionary tale for baseball. Earlier this month, the NCAA sent out a memo outlining how the regional sites and 64 teams would be selected. But Wednesday the NCAA did an about face, saying that the 64 teams must be selected before the 16 regional sites are picked. At first glance this looks like mere card shuffling. But the NCAA selection committee will have to pick regional host sites not based on which bids are the best or which teams are the strongest, but which ones have the best geography. "The change is intended to have one team flying instead of three to a regional," said NCAA Director of Statistics Jim Wright, who helps run the College World Series. "Money is not the issue here. Safety is the issue." Now Mr. Wright seems like a well-balanced man who runs a great press box every June up in Omaha. But something is rotten in Indianapolis these days, and methinks I smell the company line being served up for public consumption. Safety? As in post-Sept. 11 worries? Plueeeze. So what does this mean to a team like LSU? The Tigers would seem to have battled their way back gamely from NCAA bubble land in the last month to where they are once again considered one of the nation's 16 best teams. LSU has hosted a regional every year since 1990, usually because the Tigers have been very good, but sometimes because their monetary guarantee has been very lucrative. Not that that's a good thing. This year, the power of winning and/or the checkbook may matter not so much. Any Tom, Dick or Whatsamata U. with a minimum bid ($35,000) and a lighted field has as good a chance to host as an LSU or a Florida State or a Stanford as long as they're within easy driving distance of enough other teams. By the way, 400 miles is considered by the NCAA travel agents to be the fly/bus dividing line. So will this result in, say, a regional at Alabama that includes Ole Miss and Auburn among the three visiting teams? Tuscaloosa is within busing range, and the proviso that conference rivals couldn't meet until a super regional has been sacrificed in the name of cost cutting. Will LSU's baseball team, like its No. 3-ranked softball team, be sent to Lafayette because UL-Lafayette's Moore Field is a better geographic fit in the NCAA Tournament puzzle? The Ragin' Cajuns, like LSU, have submitted a bid, and you don't have to be a No. 1 seed to host. "Is it going to be like softball? I guess," said LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman, a newly minted member of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee. "Trying to get a competitive balance between the teams and having a fiduciary responsibility for the NCAA -- that's a hard balance." I was sharpening the pen earlier this week, ready to slice and dice the NCAA Softball Committee for its out-of-left-field tournament bracket. But after talking to Bertman I realized that it's the NCAA that lays down the guidelines for its committees to follow. If the NCAA wants to rip the competitive guts out of its tournaments to save a little cash -- I mean, ahem, promote security -- then the committees must do its bidding. If the NCAA wants regional sites spread among the other eight planets in the solar system, then warm up the space shuttle mama and start packing. "The answer is it's the NCAA Cabinet members, who are administrators from around the country," Bertman said. "They don't have any publicity. They're not famous people like coaches or anybody." So that's the way of things, isn't it? Somewhere faceless bureaucrats are rewiring the clockwork, leaving the Bertmans and people like LSU softball coach Yvette Girouard to deal with the broken machinery. And the lost credibility, which is left lying on the side of the road to Oklahoma City and Omaha.