Unless you’re a die-hard college softball enthusiast or love getting down into the double digits of ESPN networks, you may not have known women’s college softball players have the most fun of any players of any sport, perhaps ever. You think I’m joking. I’m not. The current climate in America’s softball dugouts is like a modern day sporting renaissance. You thought the Monmouth men’s basketball team bench was clever? You need to watch more softball, friend. Inflatable props, unselfconscious cheers, conspiratorial choreography, and high jinks galore all add up to make your average college softball game part finely tuned athletic contest and part improv comedy skit. There’s no need to make softball great again, it’s already doing just fine. But that could all be about to change. The NCAA is reportedly about to shut the fun down ahead of the NCAA National Championship tournament that kicks off this weekend, “curtail[ing] usage of props and uniform alterations in dugouts,” according to the Advocate.
Here’s more from the Advocate:
The crackdown began at the Division II level with North Alabama, a team also known for its dugout antics.
Terri Holmes, the chair of the NCAA Division II softball committee, told FloSoftball.com that the NCAA is emphasizing an existing rule against such props and behavior, one that is meant to “reflect a positive image of the game.”
Rule 3.12 in the NCAA softball rulebook states: “Coaches are responsible for ensuring that their players are legally equipped and properly attired to reflect a positive image of the game. Uniforms, accessories and equipment (including batting gloves that must be worn, carried in the hands or put out of sight in pockets) must be worn properly and as designed.”
Holmes said she expects Division I softball to begin enforcing that rule beginning with the NCAA tournament, but that won’t deter the [LSU] Tigers from exploiting whatever loopholes they can.
“I think we’ll find a way to be crazy without all that stuff,” senior Sandra Simmons said. “We’ll find things within our dugout, within our equipment, just to rally us up, and we’ll just be crazier with our voices than we’ve needed to be.”
What does that mean you and the rest of the sport will be missing?
Update, May 19, 2016: This post has been updated with additional details about the NCAA’s softball dugout crackdown.