In the wake of the NCAA’s emergency legislation to improve baseball’s APR performance, (Mississippi State baseball coach Ron) Polk used some characteristic and heated rhetoric, calling it a death blow for college baseball.
Now, we haven’t found a coach who likes the legislation--rules that force players to sit out a year when they transfer, become certified academically in the fall to play in the spring and, most significantly mandates a minimum of 33 percent scholarship money for every player who receives athletic aid. But Polk, who once went so far as to quit his coaching gig at Mississippi State to fight the NCAA on scholarship reductions (only to change his mind soon thereafter), overstated his case to make a point.
College baseball teams have the equivalent of 11.7 scholarships. Most teams split those scholarships among 25-30 players, with as many as half of the players who are on scholarship typically getting less than the 33 percent that the NCAA will now mandate. By requiring teams to concentrate their financial aid among a smaller group of players, and by having transfers sit out a year as is done in other marquee sports, the NCAA hopes to force coaches to place a premium on keeping their own athletes eligible rather than dangling larger aid packages in front of potential transfers who are on minimal aid elsewhere. The rule changes also limit rosters to 35 players by 2009-2010, with no more than 27 on any form of aid. Manuel notes, and the N&O article confirms, that the coaches wanted to include an increase in the total number of scholarships for baseball as part of the rule change, which would likely have made it palatable to the coaches, but it was pretty clear according to study committee member and UNC-Greensboro coach Mike Gaski (in the N&O) that an increase wouldn’t fly:
Gaski was one of three coaches on the NCAA’s baseball academic committee, along with LSU coach Paul Manieri and Florida coach Pat McMahon; pushing for more scholarships was a non-starter, he said.
“It was made very, very clear to us as a group that if we went in to the university presidents and said the answer to this problem is more scholarships, it would be totally disregarded,” Gaski said.
The changes aren’t cast in concrete yet; the NCAA has a process that would allow for the changes to be overridden by the membership.
It’s really, really hard to figure out what might happen if this change goes through. It may encourage more HS players to opt for signing professional colleges rather than going to college; it may make it difficult for lesser-known college teams to attract enough talent to compete with the traditional powers; or it may result in more sharing of the wealth. The one thing that I’m not convinced it will do is help the APR of college baseball players. It will cut down on transfers, but I don’t see how it will help them stay in school, especially if coaches have less freedom to give aid to players on the edges of the roster.