Best College Baseball Programs of the Past Decade

Best College Baseball Programs of the Past Decade

The players aren’t being paid and the sport isn’t drawing in the most fans, but college baseball programs are multi-million dollar businesses with costs and profits. Those with more to spend conceivably have more rewards to reap. And in their world, there’s no greater reward than the College World Series title. With the annual postseason for NCAA Division I programs taking place this month, the time is right to pose -- and answer -- this question: Which schools do it best?

At ValuePenguin, we studied the RPI (rating performance index) and annual expenses of 300 programs over a ten-year period, from 2004 to 2013. We used this data to determine what the World Series can’t: which programs are having the most success while also considering their budget -- big, small or somewhere in between. More on our methodology below. For now, see where your alma mater ranked.

Best Five Programs

Here are the Top 5 college baseball teams based on our methodology. We have also included each program’s number of first-round picks in MLB’s Draft over the decade studied.

1. Cal-State Fullerton

The best program in America spent an annual average of  $1,002,529 to earn the fourth-best RPI over the past decade of available data. Long a powerhouse in the sport -- it has won one College World Series each decade since the 1970s -- Fullerton was at its most efficient in 2006, when the team finished third in RPI after spending $794,428 and actually turning a relatively rare profit of $138,425. The head coach who took over for the famed Augie Garrido in 1997, George Horton, left the team in 2007 to build a rising program University of Oregon (No. 72, below).

First-round picks between 2004-2013: 5

2. North Carolina

Known more as a basketball school than a hotbed for baseball, the coaches and players of Chapel Hill, N.C., recorded the lowest (best) RPI (9.9) in the country over the 10-year period we studied. The College World Series runners-up in both 2006 and ‘07, the Tar Heels have also operated at an average deficit of $661,117 over the same period. UNC should be able to recruit right-handed pitching with ease these days, what with alum Matt Harvey emerging in the Majors.

First-round picks between 2004-2013: 7

3. UNC-Wilmington

Located on the coast, about 160 miles south of its predecessor on this list, University of North Carolina at Wilmington cracked the top five in a very different way, spending 62 percent less than its in-state peer over the decade in question to achieve the country’s 44th-best RPI. Head coach Mark Scalf, who took the helm in 1992, led the Seahawks to a 17tth straight winning season in 2015. The Colonial Athletic Association member has taken advantage of its conference’s automatic bid to the College World Series to gain entrance to the Regionals.

First-round picks between 2004-2013: 1

4. Florida State

A football school with a perennially strong, and perhaps underappreciated, baseball program, FSU has lost money or broken even each of the 10 years we studied, but the cost didn’t come without success. The three-time College World Series runner-up finished nine of those 10 seasons with a top 25 RPI. The Seminoles, who recruit many of their players from the in-state pools of talent, were headed to their 14th all-time CWS Super Regional this month. 

First-round picks between 2004-2013: 4

5. Arizona State

With annual average spending of $2,208,903, the Pac-12 Conference’s Sun Devils have paid for every bit of their success, securing the second-best aggregate RPI rating between 2004 and ’13. Still, ASU is experiencing a drought in the College World Series, having won the title five times between 1965 and ‘81 but not once since. Their 2014 move to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the former Spring Training home of the Oakland Athletics, should help the program rebound.

First-round picks between 2004-2013: 6

Does a Bigger Budget Equal a Better Ballclub?

Which schools get the best bang for their buck? How about the worst? In the graph below, we look at the relationship between two statistics for each school: its annual average program expenses and its annual average RPI. If you consider the LSUs and the Vanderbilts of the world, it appears that spending off the diamond equals success on it.

List of Top 295 Baseball Programs

Here's the complete list we included in our study, starting with the No. 1 program, Cal-State Fullerton, which earned a composite score of 46.

“graph

Methodology

To rank the NCAA’s College World Series-eligible baseball programs, we considered two factors: their annual average expenses over a 10-year period, according to the Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data, as well as their annual average RPI over the same period. We gave the former metric a 20 % weighting and the latter metric an 80 % weighting.

It should be noted that the DOE only provided expenses for public institutions; programs under the guise of private universities and colleges are not subject to the same openness.

The DOE’s office of secondary education defines “expenses” as anything “attributable to intercollegiate athletic activities. This includes appearance guarantees and options, athletically related student aid, contract services, equipment, fundraising activities, operating expenses, promotional activities, recruiting expenses, salaries and benefits, supplies, travel, and any other expenses attributable to intercollegiate athletic activities.”

“RPI” is short for “Rating Performance Index” and is used for many sports leagues, both amateur and professional. It uses a formula to calculate the quality of a team by valuing road wins and losses above and below those on those achieved at home, for example. We relied upon the NCAA’s archive, seeking data from 2004 to ‘13. We also included schools (marked with an asterisk above) for which we didn’t find a complete 10 years’ worth of RPIs.

If it's easier to locate your school alphabetically, here's a handy list from A to Z of the top college baseball programs in the nation.

Rank

SchoolAverage Annual ExpensesAverage RPIFinal Score

152

A&M-Corpus Christi$529,390166148

245

Akron$568,823223212

36

Alabama$1,521,7294475

289

Alabama A&M$281,473293239

292

Alabama St.$436,125283244

227

Albany (N.Y.)$482,789211198

261

Alcorn St.$251,560264221

82

Appalachian St.$426,163128106

31

Arizona$1,858,5043372

5

Arizona St.$2,208,9031158

208

Ark.-Little Rock$743,013190184

278

Ark.-Pine Bluff$279,421276230

20

Arkansas$2,481,5981867

126

Arkansas St.$560,699142131

44

Auburn$2,462,0864481

108

Austin Peay$514,682134120

163

Ball St.$632,712165154

34

Baylor$2,089,7693474

111

Belmont$700,413127122

153

Bethune-Cookman$790,151145149

181

Binghamton$531,338189170

76

Boston College$1,078,96786101

176

Bowling Green$570,380179168

217

Bradley$864,630190192

133

Brigham Young$1,004,978128138

207

Brown$276,697210184

103

Bryant$427,036135118

205

Bucknell$352,842204183

259

Buffalo$513,750245220

291

Butler$668,704260242

52

Cal Poly$789,3787784

133

Cal St. Bakersfield$731,384138138

1

Cal St. Fullerton$1,002,5291246

154

Cal St. Northridge$654,041156149

63

California$1,313,6046894

177

Campbell$735,559171168

203

Canisius$485,045198183

132

Central Ark.$399,266164137

179

Central Conn. St.$419,729194169

156

Central Mich.$779,998148149

175

Charleston So.$383,842195168

87

Charlotte$698,909115109

292

Chicago St.$409,249291244

184

Cincinnati$875,500168173

92

Citadel$878,996103112

7

Clemson$1,776,8611561

268

Cleveland St.$409,952258225

21

Coastal Caro.$1,241,8423468

9

Col. of Charleston$815,0334662

188

Columbia$398,269198177

73

Connecticut$1,127,5528199

283

Coppin St.$188,198291234

234

Cornell$398,286226202

80

Creighton$1,111,70489106

161

Dartmouth$392,108178153

206

Davidson$389,008202183

235

Dayton$850,438197204

150

Delaware$776,199146148

251

Delaware St.$401,483249216

130

Duke$1,234,877117134

221

Duquesne$495,808204193

29

East Caro.$1,242,5004271

118

East Tenn. St.$502,406140125

169

Eastern Ill.$460,990189165

216

Eastern Ky.$571,721199191

171

Eastern Mich.$727,474169166

8

Elon$725,9455462

127

Evansville$730,907134133

250

Fairfield$454,517240215

283

Fairleigh Dickinson$382,403275234

11

Fla. Atlantic$705,2515963

14

Fla. Gulf Coast$509,5197464

26

Florida$2,454,2051970

282

Florida A&M$301,008280234

4

Florida St.$1,846,5361157

238

Fordham$855,557198207

85

Fresno St.$1,064,90895109

143

Furman$759,882145145

24

Ga. Southern$524,2678070

157

Gardner-Webb$608,904164150

117

George Mason$664,684131125

241

George Washington$872,265199210

247

Georgetown$677,719212213

50

Georgia$1,938,4464884

139

Georgia St.$717,431143142

6

Georgia Tech$1,548,0411560

109

Gonzaga$1,085,982105120

273

Grambling$255,506272228

294

Hartford$650,921265247

218

Harvard$403,800211192

112

Hawaii$1,237,507104122

147

High Point$653,868155147

215

Hofstra$804,293191190

186

Holy Cross$204,222201174

62

Houston$1,163,9417193

255

Houston Baptist$555,740237219

185

Ill.-Chicago$792,922172173

113

Illinois$1,026,808112123

105

Illinois St.$576,706130119

160

Indiana$1,192,792137153

136

Indiana St.$618,168149141

281

Iona$388,063271233

189

Iowa$1,127,014166178

271

IPFW$325,996268228

248

Jackson St.$288,973250213

104

Jacksonville$753,968119119

115

Jacksonville St.$630,770131124

119

James Madison$835,583121127

98

Kansas$1,546,22392115

55

Kansas St.$1,372,1216488

91

Kennesaw St.$709,513115111

48

Kent St.$705,5558284

50

Kentucky$1,720,7665384

239

La Salle$410,618236209

46

La.-Lafayette$927,7576783

128

La.-Monroe$444,277154133

239

Lafayette$515,830225209

78

Lamar$783,864101103

253

Lehigh$561,101235218

79

Liberty$1,209,47186106

199

Lipscomb$835,472177181

35

Long Beach St.$962,2025575

295

Long Island$730,637265251

213

Longwood$416,036208190

142

Louisiana Tech$654,931153145

54

Louisville$1,799,0395687

122

Loyola Marymount$1,116,762115129

27

LSU$4,326,4201971

174

Maine$698,501175168

131

Manhattan$535,695149137

165

Marist$522,746175158

183

Marshall$763,722174171

97

Maryland$960,545104115

228

Massachusetts$417,364218199

286

Md.-East. Shore$276,949291237

124

Memphis$962,671119130

99

Mercer$747,681117116

10

Miami (FL)$2,669,6501262

143

Miami (OH)$819,947140145

121

Michigan$1,577,898105129

122

Michigan St.$1,133,172115129

66

Middle Tenn.$671,4379895

230

Milwaukee$509,833212201

101

Minnesota$1,201,820102117

23

Mississippi$2,110,2592269

40

Mississippi St.$1,861,9924580

270

Mississippi Val.$248,002269226

47

Missouri$1,216,4206184

74

Missouri St.$832,07789100

182

Monmouth$644,565178171

260

Morehead St.$445,928249221

252

Mt. St. Mary's$317,538253217

233

Murray St.$443,946219202

243

N.C. A&T$351,667246211

287

N.C. Central$319,521287237

45

Nebraska$1,802,7864781

141

Nevada$856,434137144

106

New Mexico$863,118113119

158

New Mexico St.$791,373148151

143

New Orleans$554,885162145

249

Niagara$423,210242214

187

Nicholls St.$387,861198175

274

Norfolk St.$377,121267229

2

North Carolina$1,365,9931051

19

North Carolina St.$1,297,2583066

271

North Dakota$308,827269228

265

North Dakota St.$423,296251223

70

North Fla.$534,60911398

167

Northeastern$822,665159160

236

Northern Colo.$393,796233205

202

Northern Ill.$631,128194182

220

Northwestern$972,516185192

114

Northwestern St.$551,110134123

95

Notre Dame$1,566,60789113

254

Oakland$444,225248219

266

Ohio$777,561219223

85

Ohio St.$1,578,58086109

27

Oklahoma$2,297,0732571

41

Oklahoma St.$1,402,4864880

146

Old Dominion$796,740142147

43

Oral Roberts$1,037,8976380

69

Oregon$2,392,3746698

29

Oregon St.$1,887,3342971

211

Pacific$1,125,703176188

246

Penn$296,220249212

151

Penn St.$1,213,567131148

279

Penn.$205,995282232

81

Pepperdine$1,360,70485106

120

Pittsburgh$837,175125128

209

Portland$905,060179187

263

Prairie View$279,729264222

226

Presbyterian$442,750211197

172

Princeton$315,504196167

129

Purdue$939,890126133

275

Quinnipiac$805,916229230

159

Radford$612,982165151

84

Rhode Island$543,975120108

11

Rice$2,490,4711463

198

Richmond$753,061180180

194

Rider$520,998195179

83

Rutgers$946,00396107

173

S.C. Upstate$348,833195167

210

Sacramento St.$721,853193187

229

Sacred Heart$548,646209199

224

Saint Joseph's$874,721191196

60

Saint Louis$912,1047792

280

Saint Peter's$470,417262233

65

Sam Houston St.$547,78410594

139

Samford$779,718139142

53

San Diego$1,227,6566485

135

San Diego St.$1,305,475120139

102

San Francisco$1,184,012102118

162

San Jose St.$747,004155153

203

Santa Clara$1,241,501169183

257

Savannah St.$267,868261219

283

Seattle$900,889228234

148

Seton Hall$968,776135147

211

Siena$599,447197188

232

SIU Edwardsville$342,322230201

63

South Ala.$873,4278194

15

South Carolina$3,371,8741464

225

South Dakota St.$383,816219196

59

South Fla.$857,7508091

170

Southeast Mo. St.$420,755191166

56

Southeastern La.$582,7929789

72

Southern California$1,838,3016899

100

Southern Ill.$624,674126116

190

Southern Illinois$692,499185178

17

Southern Miss.$844,0194865

200

Southern U.$350,288203182

244

Southern Utah$298,258249211

222

St. Bonaventure$388,609213194

275

St. Francis (N.Y.)$175,089278230

58

St. John's (NY)$1,202,0146890

290

St. Joseph's$639,352259240

218

St. Louis$761,118195192

214

St. Mary's (CA)$967,236179190

288

St. Peter's$404,046278239

33

Stanford$1,706,2153873

164

Stephen F. Austin$826,699154157

93

Stetson$1,058,48398113

155

Stony Brook$636,641162149

37

TCU$2,400,0133878

269

Temple$591,798244225

264

Tenn.-Martin$341,699261222

76

Tennessee$1,830,94373101

192

Tennessee Tech$479,432196178

242

Tex.-Pan American$619,210215211

25

Texas$3,531,8071870

31

Texas A&M$2,407,0962572

255

Texas Southern$348,225258219

137

Texas St.$1,063,849129141

68

Texas Tech$1,756,9586896

94

Texas-Arlington$669,659118113

223

Toledo$618,585199195

138

Towson$491,562162142

38

Troy$864,3376478

61

Tulane$1,678,6836593

168

UC Davis$696,875169163

18

UC Irvine$1,072,7784066

75

UC Riverside$787,30297100

88

UC Santa Barb.$764,147106110

57

UCF$892,9667589

39

UCLA$1,678,6184578

190

UNC Asheville$332,482201178

110

UNC Greensboro$543,256132120

3

UNC Wilmington$523,4076053

196

Utah$832,962176180

201

Utah Valley$251,747210182

193

Utah Valley$593,032192179

275

Valparaiso$715,390239230

22

Vanderbilt$3,622,9041869

196

Vermont$488,337197180

166

Villanova$640,297168158

13

Virginia$2,221,2921463

67

Virginia Tech$1,288,5007095

148

VMI$513,059166147

261

Wagner$572,937237221

71

Wake Forest$1,243,6497699

88

Washington$1,434,17787110

90

Washington St.$1,464,23688111

125

West Virginia$796,899129131

41

Western Caro.$525,8908980

258

Western Ill.$388,371251220

107

Western Ky.$914,528112119

231

Western Mich.$615,298207201

48

Wichita St.$1,764,3235384

116

William & Mary$667,632130125

95

Winthrop$868,318105113

194

Wofford$334,991202179

178

Wright St.$702,323175169

180

Xavier$778,072170170

237

Yale$425,764230207

267

Youngstown St.$456,155249223

An earlier version of this story ranked Texas A&M twice, at 18th and 33rd. The university's data was inadvertently split in two during the reporting process. This version, which ranks the school 31st, has been corrected.

Andrew is a former Associate Editor at ValuePenguin. He focused on an array of personal finance topics, from money management to career development.