Outgoing College World Series Director Praised For Event's Growth, Success
NCAA VP/Football & Baseball Dennis Poppe is in his final year overseeing the College World Series, and under his watch the event has experienced an "explosion of interest and growth," according to Steven Pivovar of the OMAHA WORLD-HERALD. Poppe, who plans to retire in January after 40 years with the NCAA, has been "instrumental in expanding the NCAA tournament field to 64 and introducing a second round of games, called super regionals, into the playoff format." In his 26 years overseeing the CWS, he has "worked to expand television coverage, and it's fitting that in his last year as director, every pitch of the tournament will be televised." Under Poppe, Rosenblatt Stadium was "transformed, through a series of multimillion-dollar renovations, from a sleepy minor league ballpark to a big-time stadium." When it "became apparent that further renovations might not be economically feasible, Omaha built the CWS a new home downtown" in TD Ameritrade Park. Sources said that "if it weren't for Poppe," the NCAA "might have chased the money and moved the CWS to another city." Creighton Univ. AD Bruce Rasmussen said, "He's certainly been a critical factor in why the College World Series has been here for all these years and will be here for the next 25" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 6/16). In Omaha, Jon Nyatawa noted Poppe on Saturday was "recognized before the first pitch" by CWS of Omaha Inc. President Jack Diesing Jr. (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 6/16).
ON-DECK HITTER: The OMAHA WORLD-HERALD's Pivovar noted NCAA Dir for Football & Baseball Damani Leech will succeed Poppe, and has been Poppe’s "right-hand man for the past decade." Leech said, "You learn pretty quickly the nature of this event and how special it is to the Omaha community and the baseball community at large. The challenge is not unlike what I consider for other events like the Masters, Indianapolis 500, U.S. Open tennis. Those are events that have been in the same place for many, many years, and they’ve got a challenge to grow and enhance the event while at the same time preserve what is unique and special about it. That’s not easy to do. It’s a bit of a daunting task." Leech added, "Something that Denny has taught me over the years is how important relationships are" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 6/15).