I know most people are displeased at the NCAA regional brackets. However Skip was just one member of a COMMITTEE that picked them. And it is his first year on that committee! This author seems to think that only Skip picked the entire bracket! The committee said that the brackets were going to be geographical A LONG TIME BEFORE the 64 teams were selected. What's this guy's problem? ===================================================== article » More From Today's Mobile Register Sports News Why not pull names from Skip's hat? 05/31/02 By NEAL McCREADY Sports Reporter TUSCALOOSA -- NCAA selection committees are never very good at sending clear signals to anybody about anything. On Monday, however, the committee that laid out the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament sent at least two messages that resonated quite crisply. First, the 10-person committee made it crystal clear that it knew how to take a semi-functional format and screw it up completely. The committee couldn't have done a worse job of bracketing the 64 teams if it had closed its collective eyes, spun itself around and threw darts at names on a wall. Perhaps that was the method. It makes as much sense as the repetitive reason the committee used to find 16 homes for 64 teams. The NCAA used the tragic Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as an excuse to reduce travel. "Nine-11 was a tragedy," Florida Atlantic coach Kevin Cooney said Thursday. "I think it's being used for a lot of different things. It certainly looks good on paper to say you're saving money on airfare, but as somebody who looks at authority figures with a jaundiced eye, I think maybe there's a little more to it than that." Cooney, who flew his team from Boca Raton to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday, had the guts to say what many other coaches feel. So give him credit. In all fairness, however, it doesn't take a mechanical engineering major -- or an A-student in walking at Tennessee -- to figure it out. If it looks like a rat, sounds like a rat and smells like a rat, it's probably a rat. In other words, the committee's finished product is a joke. Memo to Skip Bertman and the rest of the fellows on the committee: It's a heck of a long way from Maine to Los Angeles, in case you forgot to check. Connecticut to Texas is no small journey, either. Neither is Seattle to Houston nor Mobile to South Bend, Ind. Bertman, the legendary LSU coach who led the Tigers to five national titles before becoming the school's athletics director, somehow managed to get LSU on one side of the bracket. The other six Southeastern Conference teams in the tournament -- Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Arkansas -- are on the opposite half. Maybe if Bertman had worked as diligently to eradicate alleged academic fraud in Baton Rouge as he apparently did to take care of his team in the tournament, the NCAA's investigative arm could have eliminated one of the suspects from the long list from the SEC. If you're still skeptical, check out the regional LSU is playing host to. Sure, Southern, Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette are all making short bus rides to Louisiana's capital city, but good grief, Lane Mestepey's overused left elbow has a better chance of surviving the rest of his LSU career than one of those teams has of getting out of Alex Box Stadium alive. Cooney thought his team, one of nine from Florida in the tournament, would end up in Gainesville. The committee's criteria, after all, reportedly focused on keeping teams within 400 miles of home whenever possible. Try making the trip from south Florida to the original Dreamland without letting the odometer get past the 400-mile mark. "It really did create a mess, I think," Cooney said. That's an understatement. The committee wanted to put more regionals in the Northeast. Last year, Rutgers played host to a regional and it was, by all accounts, a disaster. This year, more than 30 schools placed bids to play host to regionals. No bids came in from the Northeast. Instead of dealing with the reality that the Pacific 10, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the SEC dominate college baseball, it apparently worked to manipulate the field and minimize the risk of having multiple teams from those conferences in the College World Series later this month in Omaha. Alabama's reward for earning the No. 3 national seed was a regional that included its archrival in the field. Flori da and South Carolina, two top 10 teams, are set to play another three-game series in next week's super regional round. Stanford, the No. 8 national seed, is playing host to three top-25 teams this weekend. Nebraska's regional is ridiculously watered down while Florida plays host to Miami and Florida International and South Carolina entertains North Carolina, James Madison and Virginia Commonwealth. If you believe this bracket was done fairly and without ulterior motives, you probably believe the Tennessee spin that Dianne Sanford isn't a UT booster. Try this for a novel concept: seed the field 1-64, designate the top 16 teams as hosts -- provided they all place bids -- and let the field fall where it may. Let the tournament be what it will be. That second message, by the way, was made crystalline as well. The committee can save the 34-cent stamp needed to mail its memo to South Alabama. The NCAA clearly respects the job Steve Kittrell has done with the Jaguars. It clearly recognizes the strides made by the Sun Belt Conference in baseball. It also clearly abhors the thought of putting a regional in Stanky Field. For the second straight year, South Alabama is a No. 1 seed in a regional. Last year, the Jags were shipped to Clemson. This weekend, it's Notre Dame. That puts the USA athletic administration at a crossroads. To get to the College World Series, South Alabama needs to put some money into Stanky Field and get the facility up to par. Given that the impending commitment to football likely will cost the school millions, it begs the question: Can you do what it takes to build a football program from scratch while taking a baseball program to the next level? For future reference, the NCAA might want to know.