Photo via AP

The College Softball World Series is coming up in two weeks, and thanks to a new NCAA initiative, it’ll be a lot less fun than last year. Regional tournaments open this weekend, and the NCAA has decided that they will crack down and enforce an arcane rule against props in the dugout starting with this first round of play-in games.

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The crackdown started on Wednesday in a Division II first round matchup between North Alabama and West Texas, when the NCAA told UNA that they couldn’t flaunt hula skirts, inflatable fish, and the like from their dugout. UNA was understandably disappointed:

“We found out after our game,” [UNA coach] Cozart said. “We understand there are rules. It’s one of those things I’ve said many times that it just keeps us loose and excited. It’s fun. These athletes come out here and they stress and put in all this hard work, and all the pressure that is on them. It’s an outlet to relax and be ourselves. That’s what it was all about.”

FloSoftball.com later confirmed with NCAA officials that they were planning on enforcing the ban across divisions for the duration of the postseason:

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The NCAA will be cracking down on props and uniform alterations in softball dugouts during the Women’s College World Series and beyond, NCAA officials confirmed Wednesday

[...]

Terri Holmes, the chair of the NCAA Division II softball committee, told FloSoftball.com that a rule against such props and behavior actually already exists.

Rule 3.1.2 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.”

Wearing an Iron Man mask or a QWOP head in the dugout is apparently a big enough distraction from playing softball the RIGHT WAY that the NCAA ain’t having it. It’s a bizarre decision, even for them, as the CWS gets noticed and praised for how fun it is.

I don’t really see what the NCAA has to gain here. You have to go through a pretty tortuous logical journey to get from “fun softball hijinks” to “bad for the brand.” Let this be another reminder: the NCAA will find everything good about sports and stamp it out in the name of staid bureaucracy.

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Thankfully, LSU isn’t letting the new enforcement get it down:

Holmes said she expects Division I softball to begin enforcing that rule beginning with the NCAA tournament, but that won’t deter the 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.”

Death to the NCAA.

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h/t Christopher