OXFORD • Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco will begin meeting later this week with veteran players to get an idea how the NCAA’s eligibility ruling – and other fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak – might affect the Rebels moving ahead.
The NCAA Division I council voted on Monday to extend eligibility to all spring sports athletes meaning Ole Miss seniors Greer Holston, Taylor Broadway, Austin Miller and Tyler Myers – all pitchers – can choose to return for another year.
Juniors Tyler Keenan and Anthony Servideo – the left side of the Ole Miss infield – were having big years in the team’s 16-1 start and under normal circumstances would be strong candidates to leave early for Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred could choose to substantially trim the 40-round selection process.
These are topics, Bianco said, he hasn’t addressed with players yet.
“We’ve kind of been waiting on the NCAA,” he said. “It’s hard to have these meetings when you don’t know what the future is. There are too many scenarios. It’s like you’re chasing your tail.”
While the eligibility question has been answered many follow-up questions around it have not.
“Even though we got some clarity on Monday there are still a lot of unanswered questions that you’ve been reading about … one-time transfers, junior college transfers, redshirts … a lot of things that they don’t have the answers to yet, but they will,” Bianco said.
After a slow start Keenan, the third baseman, finished as the team’s leader in batting average (.403), home runs (7) and RBIs (33).
Servideo took over at shortstop for three-year starter Grae Kessinger. He hit .390 with three doubles and five home runs. He had nine stolen bases in 10 attempts and 24 walks which pushed his on-base percentage to .575.
As Bianco ponders the idea of bringing in new recruits, and how they’ll fit with an expanded roster and partial scholarships, he believes he can navigate the numbers better than some other teams.
“Our difficulty will be in years to come,” he said.
For now the focus is on placing players in summer baseball opportunities. Bianco believes those traditional leagues will still operate even if that’s in a modified version.
Extended eligibility and the possibility of a shortened draft – perhaps as few as five rounds – could keep more talent in college baseball for 2021.
“Remember, it’s the top five rounds, it’s not the bottom five rounds. The best will leave, the best will sign, and the best won’t get to college. It’s all new terrain for us. We’ll have to figure it out with our few juniors what that means specifically,” Bianco said.