CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — The NCAA boasts 347 Division I schools across the United States. Just 53 of those do *not* have a baseball team. The Chattanooga Mocs are in that 15 percent minority.
In a town where professional baseball draws thousands of fans every summer home game, UTC students and community members are still scratching their heads as to why UTC’s successful team from the 70s has not been reinstated. Supporters of all generations are hoping the university will hear them.
From shock, to silence — not much has been said of UTC’s now nonexistent baseball program over the last 40 years. One day it’s here. The next, an all but forgotten piece of history.
“It was disappointing that they dropped a successful program,” said Mark Mariakis, Chattanooga Christian’s current football coach and UTC baseball last first baseman. “I don’t know how hard they’ve tried to get it back.”
“I think it’s crazy. I think it’s wild,” UTC alum Tyler Mazrimas said.
“Going to a school like UTC, you kind of assume, ‘Well, they’ve got a Division I basketball team. They’ve got a Division I football team.’ You just kind of assume there’s a baseball team,” UTC sophomore Eric Rice said. “So when people find out it’s really just shock, not really knowing why.”
Title IX and financial limitations have been the school’s standard answer.
So, students have taken matters into their own hands and created a high-level club team — one that won the NCBA Division II National Championship in 2016.
— UTC Baseball (@UTCBaseball) October 19, 2016
“I think there’s a lot of community support beginning to build,” former News 12 Sports Director Randy Smith said. “You could fund it, you could get donations. You could fund it in this community right now. There’s money in Chattanooga. You just have to find it.”
Finding players to fill the roster would be even easier, according to supporters.
“I think baseball in the Southeast is some of the best in the country,” said Mazrimas, who played on the 2016 national championship club team. “There’s so much talent, not even so much as quality talent, but depth of talent.”
“You could recruit a 100-mile radius of Chattanooga and field a very competitive baseball team,” Mariakis said.
But are the growing support and geographical benefits enough to get the Mocs back on the diamond?
“We all want there to be a baseball program at UTC,” said Rice, who catching for the current club team. “But we all know that while we’re here, it’s probably not going to happen.”
“We’ve tried to be a pilot program, try to prove that it can happen,” Mazrimas said. “We’ve tried to do our best in bringing that image to life, but it’s just kind of stuck right now. I’m not sure what the mindset is of the higher-ups.”
“It’s time for UTC to stop using Title IX as an excuse. It’s been 40 years, let’s make something happen,” Smith said.
News 12 reached out to the Chattanooga Athletic Department multiple times to see where, or if, baseball is on their list of priorities. They declined to comment.