What is now a relatively quiet time in Omaha is usually bustling with guests from all across the country to experience what is referred to “The Greatest Show on Dirt.”
The NCAA Men’s College World Series (CWS) has been a staple in Omaha since 1950; however, to the disappointment of baseball and general sports fans alike, it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament was supposed to take place starting Friday, June 12, and last until the championship game on Wednesday, June 24.
Two UNO experts are taking this opportunity to look back to the past of the CWS, as well as its future in a post-COVID world.
Let's rewind back to the summer of 2019, when fans packed TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha on Wednesday, June 26: It was game three of the championship series between the Vanderbilt Commodores and University of Michigan Wolverines; both teams had a win which meant the third game would determine who took home the trophy. In the end Vanderbilt bested Michigan to take home last year's title.
To do so, Swift used a model that takes data from the regular season to predict the outcome of the CWS. But of course, ‘underdogs’ that can throw off any estimate. Swift says accurately estimating the 2019 victor has now posed the questions: Does the fact that the team the model predicted had the highest chance of winning actually won validate the model? On the flip side, if another team had won, would that invalidate the model?
“Because the tournament only gets played once, the single outcome of the tournament will neither validate or invalidate the method used to generate predictions.” Swift said.
However, if we fast forward to present day with an empty ball park and equally vacant downtown area, Swift's theories didn't have a chance to be tested. Instead, it's the work of Chris Decker, Ph.D., professor and chair of the College of Business Administration's Department of Economics, that has come in to pinch hit.
“Events like the CWS act as a type of economic stimulus to the region,” he said. “With teams, spectators and national media descending on Omaha, the dollars spent locally by these groups is added revenue to a lot of local area businesses such as hotels and restaurants.”
The most recent estimate suggests that the total economic impact of the CWS on Omaha is about $70 million. Not only is that an impact on local business, as Decker mentioned, but the tournament also generally supports around 800-900 jobs every year.
“I honestly think that we sometimes underestimate the impact of the CWS each year,” Decker said. “We really just need to weather this storm until 2021.”
Both Swift and Decker, as well as thousands of fans and the City of Omaha, will be eagerly awaiting having the Greatest Show on Dirt back in the Big O next year. The 2021 Men’s College World Series is planned to take place Saturday, June 19 – Wednesday, June 30.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.