Big changes are certainly on the way for college baseball, but the alteration that has the potential to be the biggest of all might be delayed.
When the NCAA Division I board of directors meets Thursday, the committee that has recommended sweeping academic reforms for baseball will suggest it waits a year to make changes in the allocation of scholarships.
At a meeting last week, the committee–formally known as the Division I Baseball Academic Enhancement Working Group–agreed that the other major reforms approved in April should go into effect in August 2008 as planned: a 35-man roster cap, fall certification, and the elimination of the one-time transfer rule.
But the committee will suggest further study and a one-year wait before the board imposes the most controversial proposal of all, which would require that all scholarship players receive at least a 33 percent aid package. At present coaches can give players much smaller fractions of scholarships, which allows them to spread their aid over many players.
The scholarship legislation spawned objections from 72 Division I presidents, so the committee reconsidered its position prior to Thursday’s vote on the issue by the board of directors. Just a handful of the objections came from teams in power conferences, and most came from Northern schools that allocate fewer than the maximum 11.7 scholarships at their disposal for baseball. Those schools would not be able to stretch their limited scholarship money nearly as far if they were prohibited from offering a package less than 33 percent.
“Everybody (on the working group) felt that if we could have a little time to study what would be the best and most popular way to handle the financial aid, that would be the best thing,” said Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri, a member of the committee. “Once you put something in, it’s very difficult to get it changed.”
The board could still decide to reject the working group’s recommendation, and if it does the working group will push for a lower minimum scholarship: 25 percent, according to multiple sources.
Whether the Board decides to delay the 33 percent rule for a year, the rest of the legislation is almost certain to pass and take effect next August. Teams will be required to get down to 30 scholarship players for the 2008-09 season regardless of the minimum scholarship amount, and teams must be down to 27 scholarship players by 2009-10.
We’ll have more on how the uncertainty surrounding the proposed changes is affecting college recruiters online later this week and in On Campus in the next issue of Baseball America.
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