'Nothing makes sense': Sooners coach Patty Gasso pushes for NCAA softball seeding reform
NORMAN — Seeding has been a big topic of discussion in the softball postseason, with much of it centering on Washington, OU’s Super Regional opponent.
Despite the Huskies’ No. 6 ranking, Washington was given the No. 16 and final national seed, causing the team to walk out of the selection show broadcast.
“I’m 100% behind that, because I think it was just a rob job, no doubt,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said. “I can’t control it, but I certainly want to be one of the voices that works for change because there’s too many young athletes and programs that are working so hard and deserve better than what we’re being given. There’s all kinds of analogies, but when you put it down on paper, nothing makes sense.”
The first game of the best-of-three Super Regional is set for 2 p.m. Friday at Marita Hynes Field (ESPN2), with the second game at 2 p.m. Saturday (ABC) and a potential Game 3 scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday (ESPN).
Washington (45-12) went 18-5 in the Pac-12, but their 17-9 road record helped keep the Huskies’ RPI down. Washington is currently No. 15 in the RPI after its regional win.
Gasso has been one of the most prominent voices in asking for change from the NCAA. She’s spoken not only about Washington but also Wichita State, which was 39-11-1 entering last weekend’s Norman Regional.
“I want transparency,” Gasso said. “You’ve got 16 seeds, why can’t we seed 32? Why can’t we seed 48? What happens to all the other teams? That’s what we’re wondering.”
Gasso was far from done.
“Someone tell me — tell us — because we’re working for something, but it’s just not paying off,” Gasso said. “Washington, that’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. And when you’re talking to a coach who’s trying to lead her team and then they get disrespected like that? I’m not trying to attack anyone. Just tell us. Somebody tell us what you want from us, and make it clear and make it transparent so we know what to do and we know how to explain to our athletes why this is happening.”
Gasso also mentioned Big Ten champion Michigan, who was unseeded and sent to take on Washington in a regional.
“Do we know why? Does anyone know why? That’s all I want,” Gasso said. “Just tell me. Give me the answer and then I’ll be quiet. But it’s all hidden, a mystery. Why is that? Just tell me why we’re No. 1. Tell me why. I don’t know. I don’t know. This one’s hard. Every year there’s something. This one’s the worst I’ve ever seen. Maybe it’s COVID year, maybe there’s finances. Just say it and we’ll understand. No one’s talking and no one’s answering. That’s what’s difficult about that.”
Gasso said she’d like to see at least the top 32 teams seeded rather than just the top 16, to make for matchups that are fairer throughout the tournament.
Spotlight shining bright on series
Saturday’s second game of the Super Regional will make history as the first college softball game to be broadcast on ABC.
“It was kind of like jaw-dropping,” OU’s Taylon Snow said of finding out the game. “Know that we’re going to be able to use a platform now, that high — you watch news on ABC. That’s kind of crazy. Softball being on there for the first time and us being able to be a part of that, it’s pretty awesome.”
Gasso said the broadcast was a big deal, but she also didn’t want to make too big of a deal about it.
“They’re excited about it, but I don’t want them to think too hard about it, because then that creates the anxiety and the things you don’t want them to think about,” Gasso said. “So we have to make this as natural and real as we do every day.
“They definitely are aware of it, they find it a great honor. It’s kind of unique that it’s happening in a Super Regional to be honest with you. But I think the country is in love with this matchup.”
Gasso: ‘Feel like we’re getting close’ to new stadium
It’s been three years since the plans for a new softball stadium to replace Marita Hynes Field were announced, but ground has yet to be broken on the project.
“It’s hard,” Gasso said. “It’s hard in many ways. Again, you just have to give answers to your team. When I was recruiting these guys, I’m telling them that they’re playing in a new stadium. It’s just finances. This is a $25 million project. We’re needing to get to half to get ground broken and I think we’re getting pretty close.”
The new stadium is set to be at the northwest corner of Jenkins Avenue and Imhoff Road half a mile south of the current stadium. Plans are for a stadium that will hold 3,000 fans, doubling the current capacity.
Additional temporary seating has often been added to the current stadium. In a Bedlam matchup in 2019, a record 2,076 watched the Sooners beat the Cowgirls.
Home Run Village announced
With tickets sold out for the Super Regional, OU will host Home Run Village, an interactive fan entertainment area on the lawn just west of Marita Hynes Field.
A video board will show the games and there will also be sponsor giveaways, music and food vendors at the event, which is free to attend.
Food vendors include Pizza Hut, the event’s title sponsor, Kona Ice and Audrey’s Tacos.
Fans are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating to watch the games.