The Pac-12 has ruled collegiate softball with an iron fist since 1986, but its absence from this year's World Series title game finally adds some mystery to this year's softball champion.
Parity is a good thing in any sport. It keeps fans' attention and makes each game worthwhile. Since the inception of the women's college World Series in 1982, the Pac-12 has won 24 out of 30 championships.
That sounds mostly predictable to me. Granted, the champion could be a variety of teams within the Pac-12 group. But dominance is dominance, whether it be by one team or an entire conference.
Alabama and Oklahoma will meet in the World Series final after defeating California and Arizona State in the semifinals. Each team is looking to add prestige to its respective conference with a championship victory, starting tonight.
Let's take a look at this matchup specifically and why the Pac-12's idle year is a good thing.
Sooners vs. Crimson Tide
Oklahoma and Alabama will attempt to do what very few non-Pac-12 squads have done since 1986; win the women's college World Series.
The Big 12 has won four titles. Oklahoma's championship in 2000 was the last time a Big 12 team hoisted the title trophy. Alabama is trying to claim the SEC's first World Series title.
Neither conference will be considered Pac-12 caliber overnight, but a victory will provide a much-needed change of pace.
The Sooners knocked off Arizona State to cement their spot in the three-game title series. Their 5-3 victory knocked out a Sun Devil program with championships in two of the last four years.
Alabama eliminated this year's No. 1 seed, California, to earn its spot opposite Oklahoma. It will look to avenge the SEC's championship losses in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
One thing is for sure no matter what; the Pac-12 will not be adding another trophy to its plentiful collection.
Now, let's talk about why that is important.
Parity Breeds Popularity
What would you want if you were trying to make a sport with marginal popularity more enticing to casual sports fans?
Would you want one conference to dominate? This keeps large fanbases in one geographic area and restricts the majority of the nation's top talent to one specific conference.
Or, would you want the success to be dispersed? A larger variety of successful teams would entice fans across the country (not just in one area) to tune in, and it would encourage top high school talent to consider attending schools outside of the Pac-12.
Dispersing success can only be a good thing for college softball. The women's college World Series already fights with the men's college World Series for popularity.
Parity breeds popularity because it adds mystery to the outcome and just makes things more interesting in general. I would rather be blindsided by a miracle run to the championship than another ho-hum Pac-12-saturated year at the women's college World Series.
The Sooners and the Crimson Tide have already shown softball teams exist outside of the West Coast. Now, they must provide excitement to everyone tuning in to their best-of-three battle.