GREEN BAY — The celebrations after Green Bay softball’s first Horizon League regular season title were short-lived.
“There was a lot of crying and anger but it’s kind of just beyond our control at this point,” said Phoenix senior pitcher Ashley Nannemann.
The crying by players followed a choked-up announcement by Green Bay director of athletics Mary Ellen Gillespie, telling the team following their final regular season game that, despite the conference title, they would not be hosting the conference tournament. Green Bay will still get the number one seed in the tournament, but it will be played at Wright State University.
“I think this is a surprise, really,” said Phoenix head coach Jean Rivett. “I think Mary Ellen was even surprised about the whole situation. I had no idea.”
The Horizon League says Green Bay should not be surprised. The tournament is not being played at Green Bay because the school’s softball field did not meet all the requirements the league set out for hosting conference tournaments. The league says they notified any schools in the Fall if their facilities did not meet the requirements to host a conference tournament.
The Horizon League says one of the problems Green Bay’s softball field has is a lack of lights. The school added the league had issues with the lack of restrooms and concessions on site, and that they needed a hard-wire internet connection to stream games online.
“You never like penalizing a school the wins the regular season, but I think the [Horizon League] championships committee felt like this could help serve as an impetus for multiple schools and different facilities to upgrade their facilities so they can host the championships,” said Horizon League assistant commissioner Bill Potter.
Rivett says she made Gillespie aware during the season that her team may end up winning the regular season title. The coach said she knew the lack of lighting may be an issue but was surprised about the other problems.
“We’re just going to make the best of an adverse situation,” said Rivett.
Potter says he believes this is the first time the Horizon League had to hold a conference tournament at a site other than that of the regular season champion because of a facility not meeting its requirements.
“They were given an opportunity to find the lights and things like that or find an alternate facility within 50 miles of Green Bay that could host the championship,” said Potter. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like they were able to do either one.”
One consolation: instead of their normal long bus trip, Green Bay’s players found out before practice on Monday the school is chartering flights to Ohio for the tournament.