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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 08 2012

Kolpack: Some Summit tournaments could use retooling

Fargo - The Summit League-standings rally that the softball team from Missouri-Kansas City waged in the last couple of weeks was nothing short of miraculous. It almost defied mathematical logic.

Once looking like a sure bet playoff team, Western Illinois dropped eight of its last nine conference games in a choke of colossal proportions. That opened the door for the Kangaroos, who won their last four, including a three-game sweep of WIU, to tie the Leathernecks in the standings at 13-11. UMKC got the tiebreaker.

It helped save face in a Summit four-team playoff format that needs to be put on a Fargo boulevard and taken to the landfill as part of Cleanup Week. Summit tournament protocol calls for the regular-season champion from the previous year to host, and since UMKC won it last season, the No. 4 seed Kangaroos get to play top-seeded North Dakota State on their home field in Thursday’s first round.

No. 2 IPFW plays No. 3 Southern Utah in the other first-round game.

That format is also used for other Summit tournaments like volleyball and soccer. If UMKC didn’t make this year’s tourney, there would have been four teams playing in front of a few handfuls of fans.

Not exactly a rockin’ postseason atmosphere. The reason for the format, said NDSU women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn, is to give the host team time for preparations like marketing and advertising, give teams who look like they’re going to make it more time for travel arrangements and to reward the champ from the previous year.

There are also game management reasons like travel arrangements for umpires. Dorn, by the way, said she would put a priority on guaranteeing the host team being in the tourney.

“Then I get it,” she said.

Last year, Western Illinois hosted the tourney, but wasn’t in the field. Next year, NDSU will host. The Bison will have a young team and if they don’t make it, there will be four teams at Ellig Sports Complex with about four people not affiliated with a team in the stands.

“I’d rather reward the team that won it that year,” said NDSU head coach Darren Mueller, using his best politically correct demeanor.

And reward the seniors, too. Did we forget about them? NDSU has six who fought all season, won the league title and for their efforts got to hop on a bus Tuesday night for the most-of-the-night, nine-hour, 600-mile drive to Kansas City.

With the departure of Centenary (La.) last year and Southern Utah and Oral Roberts next year, the Summit is a more regional, bus-able league. It’s time to stop pinching pennies and give the regular-season champ the chance to host a tournament in the same year.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia