This College Baseball Program Goes for One Last Ride After the School Shuts Down for Good

Used with permission of Birmingham-Southern College Athletics

I’ve written before about the excitement of college baseball. During the playoffs, the thrills are that much more palpable, mostly because teams play with a win-or-go-home mentality.


But for one team, “win or go home” has a totally different meaning. The Birmingham-Southern College Panthers, one of the top programs in NCAA Division III baseball, defeated Denison College 2-0 in the Super Regional tournament in Granville, Ohio, this weekend. The Panthers became the first team to advance to the DIII College World Series, which starts May 31.

They’re playing each game as if it’s their last — literally. You see, Birmingham-Southern College is closing at the end of the month, which means that not only will the Panthers baseball program cease to exist, but the school itself will become only a memory.

Kennington Smith III explains at The Athletic:

The 1,300-student college founded in 1856 will close May 31 after a nearly two-year battle to replenish its depleted endowment to stay afloat. In October, the Alabama state treasurer declined a $30 million loan, and the school officially voted in late March to close. So if the baseball team continues to win, it will play for a school that no longer exists.

Birmingham-Southern’s fate is another blow to small liberal arts institutions, many of which are closing, merging, or scaling back to cut costs.


Birmingham-Southern held its final graduation ceremony on Friday. The ceremony felt as much like a eulogy as a commencement, with years of alumni gathered to say farewell to their alma mater.

“What separates these moments from other moments in your life is that knowledge inside of you, that you know as soon as this moment passes nothing will ever be the same,” a tearful President Daniel Coleman said in a speech. “And sometimes, this knowledge can be too much to bear. Tonight, as we say farewell to this college, after 168 years, we’re all sharing in such a moment.”

The baseball program hopes to outlast the school, if only for a few days. The Panthers have been on an impressive 17-4 run since the school announced its closing in late March, and they’re continuing to play as if they’re going out with a bang.

“They’re playing for freedom, for fun,” head coach Jan Weisberg told The Athletic.

The school announced its closure on an off day for the team, but Weisberg called them together just to hang out at the batting cages. It turned out to be one of the best workouts of the season.

“I just told them, quite simply, that they have a choice to make,” Weisberg said about that day. “They can allow unfortunate circumstances to lead them to a place where they can quit, or they can just move on and finish strong.”


The team’s seniors didn’t get to attend graduation because they were playing in the Super Regional. For them, the ability to keep playing for a couple more weeks is an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

“I’ve yet to make a World Series,” pitcher Hansen McCown said. “To do this as the very last team to have something that not only baseball fans care for but just people that have been to the school, went here, and just something to just pull for one last time for Birmingham, I think it’s really special.”

I’ll be keeping an eye on the Birmingham-Southern Panthers this weekend as they try to make one last run. And I don’t think it’ll be hard to root for them.


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