Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Turkey Award....Oh Yeah...Happy Thanksgiving!!!

This years first Turkey Award goes to the folks at the NCAA. Maybe this is not a politically correct stance to take since we extol the virtues of colleges on this site, but again our views are opinions for the betterment of baseball and we vehemently disagree on their recent rulings.

The ruling that disturbs us the most is moving the start dates of college baseball up to March 1 from February 1 without decreasing the number of games being played. That means that schools must squeeze in 56 games in four fewer weeks. Many teams must now play up to 5 games a week to comply with this change. To top it off, the NCAA's new Academic Performance Rates (APR) have gotten tougher. APR measures each student's progress toward obtaining an academic degree. Teams failing to score 925 in the APR -- equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate -- can lose scholarships. So, baseball players, which on average enter college with GPA's much, much higher than the players in the "revenue generating" sports, have an additional target on their back to perform even more with much less time available to them in the classroom.

Under the new rules, players also must be academically eligible during fall semester to play the following spring, which will require more players to attend summer school. Football and basketball players address this by going to summer school to improve their status. The difference is that those sports give 100% scholarships that cover the costs of summer school. Most college baseball players don't attend summer school because their limited scholarships, which to begin with are only 33-50%of the total universities costs during regular school year, don't cover it. But, what the NCAA seems to forget is that traditionally, baseball is a SUMMER sport. For most baseball players, summer school is out of the question, because the better players are shipped to the summer leagues like Cape Cod, Northwoods and Alaska... What are they supposed to do???? And, for those that want to go to school, that cost is totally out of pocket, because their 33-50% scholarship doesn't cover it.

Want more???...Also under the new rules, which will go in effect for the 2008-09 academic year, baseball rosters will be capped at 35 players, with only 30 players being eligible to receive financial aid. Starting in 2009-10, only 27 players can receive financial aid, each of whom must receive at least one-third of a full scholarship. So here's the scenario...56 games in four fewer weeks means a team will need more pitchers...but, since the roster is now capped and the scholarship minimum raised to's not a great time to be a developing position player....teams will only recruit impact guys at positions, so they can concentrate on recruiting more pitchers.

As it is, College baseball receives fewer scholarships that programs that generate a fraction of the revenue. For instance, women's equestrian can dole out 15 scholarships, and women's crew teams can award 20 scholarships.

Ron Polk, the Mississippi State Coach, a huge opponent of the legislation stated, "They're giving us chump change, and now they're telling us how to spend the chump change," Polk said.

The new college baseball rules also include legislation that is targeted at increasing player retention and graduation rates for college baseball. In the past, baseball players could transfer from one school to another without penalty. Football, basketball and men's hockey players have to sit out one season at their new school if they transfer. Under the new rules, baseball players also will face that one-year penalty if they leave.

Most college baseball coaches agree that they need to do a better job of retaining and graduating their players. But decreasing the size of scholarships isn't the way to achieve that goal, Polk said.

Polk believes the new rules will do more harm that good. Because of the new rules, Polk said college baseball teams won't be able to lure top high school players to their schools anymore. "How am I going to be able to convince a kid to come to college, instead of going pro, when I can only give him a 33 percent scholarship?" Polk said.

Rounding Third asks..."What IS the message being sent??? The NCAA wants players to graduate...yet they cap the roster at 35...which means that some upper classmen may have to be cut to make room for new recruits...Those upper classmen can't transfer, they lose their scholarship and then what? Hopefully they have the financial wherewithall to stay in school and graduate, so it doesn't affect the schools APR...Another scenario involves draftable can you convince them to stay in college after their junior year when there are 50 rounds of the draft selecting over 1,500 players? As a contrast, basketball drafts 60 players...and baseball's APR is still pretty even with basketballs...So given all of the outside influences, why is baseball even being targeted???"

Our number one rant is that these players are going to school to play baseball...but they are going to school first...and the NCAA is making it harder for them to make the grade...yet... wants them to makes the grades. Yes, there was a disparity between the sun-belt schools and the frost belt schools when the season started on February 1...And, strapping on full football gear in the Arizona 100+ degree heat or the stifling Florida humidity in late August and early September is tough too, but you don't see those schools wanting to move the football season to October. Bottom line, it's about the players and their educational needs. The NCAA in our opinion just made it a lot harder for those academic needs to be satisfied.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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