At Half-ACC, Half-SEC College World Series,
Only One League Is Fighting Against History

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

Over the last two decades, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference have been the top two leagues in college baseball.

Since 2014, for example, 50 of the 80 College World Series teams — almost two-thirds (62.5 percent) — have come from the SEC (31) or the ACC (19). Nobody else is even close.

“To me, it’s not so much a rivalry with the SEC,” NC State coach Elliott Avent said earlier this week, after his Wolfpack eliminated Georgia with a Super Regional triumph in Athens. “It’s a respect.”

This season, the modern SEC/ACC theme has continued in all the most important ways, and plenty of respect is in order for both leagues.

Which conference has the highest league-wide, season-long RPI? The SEC (.5882), of course. Who’s second? The ACC (.5710), of course. Then there is a significant dropoff to (in order) the Big 12, Big Ten, Sun Belt, Pac-12 and everyone else.

Which league received the most invitations to the 64-team NCAA Baseball Championship, in which each of the 30 Division One conferences that sponsor baseball gets a single automatic bid, while the other 34 (at-large) teams are selected by a committee? The SEC, again, with 11 bids. Who was second? The ACC, again, with eight.

Which league had the most teams advance to this year’s Super Regionals, which are essentially the sport’s version of the Sweet 16? That was actually a tie, between — you guessed it — the SEC (five) and the ACC (five). The other 28 leagues in America, collectively, were represented by only six teams.

Finally, of course, every college baseball fan knows by now that the 2024 College World Series offers another tie — four SEC squads and four ACC squads. Since the CWS became an eight-team bracket, way back in 1950, there had never been just two leagues represented in Omaha.

On the SEC-heavy side of the bracket, which begins play Saturday (2 pm, ESPN), #10 NC State is surrounded by #2 Kentucky, #3 Texas A&M and unseeded Florida. On the ACC-heavy side of the bracket, which begins play Friday (2 pm, ESPN), #1 Tennessee is surrounded by #4 North Carolina, #8 Florida State and #12 Virginia.

The SEC has been truly outstanding almost every year since the turn of the century. The ACC has been consistently strong this year, too, and perhaps as good as it’s ever been.

“I felt like this year, out of all my years being involved in the ACC — and I have been involved in them a while now (starting in 1999, as a UNC assistant) — top to bottom, it was the best,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said. “If you didn’t play well, you would lose. Some really good ACC teams didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s a testament to our league, a testament to how hard the coaches are working to get great players, and then those players obviously are doing the work on the field.”

Historically speaking, the SEC and the ACC merely tied the all-time record for most teams from a single league in a single CWS. That all-time list consists entirely of examples when — yep — either the SEC or the ACC turned the trick.

Four CWS Teams From Same Conference
Year—Conference (Schools)

1997—SEC (Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State)
2004—SEC (Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina)
2006—ACC (Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, UNC)
2015—SEC (Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Vanderbilt)
2019—SEC (Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt)
2022—SEC (Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi, Texas A&M)
2024—ACC (Florida State, NC State, UNC, Virginia)
2024—SEC (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas A&M)

BOLD = team won CWS that year

Some of the details of this year’s NCAA Tournament — so far, at least — actually have favored the ACC.

Five of the SEC teams that were eliminated during the event’s opening weekend had their seasons end in regionals hosted by ACC schools. In three cases (UNC over LSU, NC State over South Carolina, Virginia over Mississippi State), ACC teams directly contributed to SEC teams’ early departures from the Big Bracket. The only example of an SEC team sending an ACC team home during regional play came when Georgia defeated Georgia Tech.

Only two of the eight Super Regionals offered a head-to-head matchup between an SEC school and an ACC school, and those results were split. Florida eliminated Clemson on the Tigers’ home field, and NC State took out Georgia in Athens.

Now that each league has four superb survivors in Omaha, it will be fascinating to see if one very important, undeniable historic trend continues. When it comes to national championships in NCAA baseball, you might say the SEC and the ACC have been worlds apart.

The SEC has claimed four consecutive NCAA baseball championships and nine of the last 14. It also has had at least one team in 14 of the past 15 finals.

The ACC, meanwhile, has only two NCAA baseball titles in its entire 71-year-history. Wake Forest won it all in 1955, and Virginia captured the crown in 2015.

In fact, there are nine programs that have won more NCAA baseball championships than the ACC has won collectively as a league: Southern Cal (12), LSU (seven), Texas (six), Arizona State (five), Arizona (four), Miami (four), Cal State Fullerton (four), Minnesota (three) and Oregon State (three). The Hurricanes’ four titles, in 1982, 1985, 1999 and 2001, all came before they joined the ACC.

In a piece of trivia that symbolizes the league’s frequent “bridesmaid” status in Omaha, the three schools with the most trips to the College World Series without winning a title are all long-time ACC members: Florida State (24 trips, counting this year), Clemson (12) and UNC (12, counting this year).

Clearly, an awful lot of history suggests that Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M or Florida will capture the national championship this year.

With UNC, FSU, NC State and Virginia also in Omaha, of course, you also could say the ACC has a 50-50 chance of claiming the crown.

NCAA Baseball Champions
Year—School, Conference
(64-Team Era; 1999-present)

2023—LSU, SEC
2022—Mississippi, SEC
2021—Mississippi State, SEC
2020—(no tournament/COVID)
2019—Vanderbilt, SEC
2018—Oregon State, Pac-12
2017—Florida, SEC
2016—Coastal Carolina, Big South*
2015—Virginia, ACC
2014—Vanderbilt, SEC
2013—UCLA, Pac-12
2012—Arizona, Pac-12
2011—South Carolina, SEC
2010—South Carolina, SEC
2009—LSU, SEC
2008—Fresno State, WAC*
2007—Oregon State, Pac-12
2006—Oregon State, Pac-12
2005—Texas, Big 12
2004—Cal Fullerton, Big West
2003—Rice, WAC*
2002—Texas, Big 12
2001—Miami, independent*
2000—LSU, SEC
1999—Miami, independent*

*—league affiliation at time of title (has since changed)