Today is expected to be a monumental day for college athletics.
The NCAA Division I council is meeting to decide the eligibility fate for all spring athletes affected by the abrupt cancellation of their seasons due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Here in baseball-crazed Mississippi, that’s the sport at the forefront of today’s vote. Will seniors be granted another season of eligibility? Does that extra year extend to only seniors? Will rosters be expanded with essentially an extra class worth of players? How will the scholarship situation work with all those players?
These are just some of the questions that the council must meander their way through and try to answer today.
My hope is that the council will grant every player another year of eligibility – that’s what has already happened for Division II and junior college players. Sure, seniors are the ones that were impacted most by this situation but every player on the roster had more than half a year of eligibility shaved from their careers.
Locally, Mississippi State had a dozen players appear in 1-5 games out of the 16 the Bulldogs were able to get in before the cancellation. Ole Miss had 11 players – all pitchers – who took the mound five times or less in the 17 games the Rebels played.
It would be a shame to see those guys – and all the players in the same boat across the country – lose a whole year for just a few at bats or maybe an inning or two in the field.
I know it’s a long shot, but I’d also love to see the NCAA finally do something about the antiquated 11.7 scholarship limit for baseball as well. They’ll have to address it for this situation, so why not go ahead and fix it for the future as well?
In case you’re unfamiliar with those rules, baseball teams have 11.7 scholarships to divide among 27 players on a 35-man roster.
Former MSU coach Ron Polk has been beating the drum for scholarship expansion in baseball for decades and I am in full agreement with him.
It’s absolutely absurd for sports such as women’s rowing (20), ice hockey (18), women’s equestrian (15), lacrosse (12.6), women’s field hockey (12), gymnastics (12) and women’s rugby (12) to have more scholarships than baseball.
Even softball gets a dozen scholarships – and that’s essentially the same sport.
But back to the immediate matter at hand, the council must allow some roster flexibility for baseball if for no other reason than the MLB Draft, which will be restricted to only 5-to-10 rounds this year instead of the usual 40. That means more current players can choose to continue their college careers and additional signees will be arriving on campus that normally would’ve went pro.
It’s a real numbers mess in more ways than one, and there’s no quick fix for many of these issues – especially for most schools where baseball is not a profitable sport.
The futures of many young men are in the hands of a few council members today and we can only hope that they find a resolution that benefits all parties involved.
Logan Lowery (logan.lowery @journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Journal. He blogs daily at DJournal.com