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By Will Kimmey
NCAA changes plans on change-of-season plan
College baseball's change-of-season plan now looks at least two seasons away, but more likely three.
The NCAA Division I baseball issues committee unanimously approved a four-pronged plan in July, then the championships/competition cabinet did the same in September. But the management council, which was supposed to make its decision this November, has tabled that call until October 2005.
"The management council decided not to act at this time because it's neither non-controversial or emergency legislation," said Dave Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. "It will move into the 2005 legislative cycle, and won't be finalized until April of 2006."
That late date would leave little time for coaches to reconcile their 2007 schedules--which can be planned years in advance--with the proposed March 1 start date. So the plan--which would also move the College World Series back one week, establish a Feb. 1 start date for spring practice and provide a 45-day window for teams to execute fall practices--might be held off until the 2007-08 academic year.
"I made this aware to issues committee. They are looking at different options, and are surveying all the conference commissioners for their input on (the) implementation date on this. That will be decided by mid-December," said Keilitz, who sent a letter to all Division I coaches updating them on the situation.
"If this thing does pass--and we can't know until April 2006--what's the best implementation date? Most coaches feel it really would screw up the 2007 scheduling. So it's not likely to happen until the 2007-08 academic year. However, I told the coaches, if you want to go ahead and start scheduling, be aware that it could still take effect for 2007."
The proposal moved through the first two approval stages with unanimous consent, but could face more difficulties when it reaches the management council. A large number of programs cite the fiscal concerns of housing and feeding student-athletes after the school year ends if the season is pushed back.
Gauging from the current feelings on the change-of-season plan, it seems its chances of passing in its current form are no better than 50-50.
"There's a lot of issues involved, and the more issues you have with any proposal, the more difficult it is to pass," Keilitz said. "This is a four-part proposal, and with a multi-part proposal, it's hard for everybody to agree on all parts. It complicates it."
Few coaches have any problem with the changes for fall practice, as it allows them to spread out practice days over a longer period of time and helps navigate through weather problems.
But don't expect the least controversial part of the proposal to be broken off from the rest of the changes. At least not yet.
"The issues committee is determined to push this thing through as full package," Keilitz said. “They don't want to break off pieces. It will pass or fail as full package. If it fails, then you go back and say what issues can pass?"
Horne Plays For Gators
Florida recruiting coordinator Ross Jones said his program received commitments during the Nov. 10-17 early signing period from every key player the program had on its list. The Gators got an extra recruit--and one that will pay immediate dividends--during the same week when Chipola (Fla.) JC righthander Alan Horne decided to enroll at Florida for the spring semester.
Horne was a first-round pick out of Mariana (Fla.) High in 2001, pitched for Mississippi as a freshman, missed most of his sophomore year following Tommy John surgery and then transferred to Chipola. The Angels drafted Horne in the 30th round this June. He will replace 2004 Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year and second-round draft pick Justin Hoyman atop the Florida rotation and should emerge as an early draft pick in June.
Louisiana State and North Carolina State received a pair of high-profile commitments late in the signing period. While neither player is likely to go to college, Jeremy Hellickson and Justin Upton associate the programs with two of the top talents of the 2005 draft class.
Upton, the No. 1 prospect in the class and the younger brother of Devil Rays infielder B.J. Upton, committed to North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have a connection in new assistant coach Tony Guzzo, who formerly coached at Old Dominion, in the Virginia Tidewater region near Upton’s Chesapeake, Va., home.
Upton, a multi-tooled shortstop much in the same mold as his older brother, is the second No. 1 prospect to sign with the Wolfpack in six years, following Raleigh native Josh Hamilton, who committed to N.C. State before going No. 1 overall in the 1999 draft.
Hellickson, one of four LSU recruits in the BA Top 100, has a better chance to go to college. At a listed 6-foot-1, 182 pounds, Hellickson doesn’t have an ideal pro body, but he has an electric arm. The Des Moines, Iowa, native is joined among LSU Top 100 signees by lefthander Beau Jones (No. 20), shortstop Brandon Snyder (No. 25) and outfielder Jarred Bogany (No. 36).
Hartford Hires Calcaterra
Hartford chose Jeff Calcaterra out of a pool of 80 applicants to serve as its baseball coach. He spent the last 11 years as an assistant at Indiana and also served as a team captain and all-Big 10 Conference performer while playing for the Hoosiers from 1989-92.
Calcaterra spent 17 years in Bloomington, Ind., but has ties to Hartford because his wife Karen is a Connecticut native.
"My wife is from West Hartford and all my in-laws are there, so that will definitely make the move easier," he said. "The transition is going to be fairly smooth because of all my family in the area."
Calcaterra replaces Harvey Shapiro, who resigned in August after six seasons and a 76-198 record.
Rams Move South For Season
Virginia Commonwealth will play its 2005 home games at the Petersburg Sports Complex, about a 40-minute drive south of its Richmond campus.
Since 1986, the Rams have played at the Diamond, the home field of the Triple-A Richmond Braves. But that park will face major renovations this offseason and won't be ready when VCU's season begins in February.
So VCU will play at the 2,000-seat field that also houses Petersburg High and the Petersburg Generals of the Coastal Plain League every summer. The park's dimensions are much smaller--it's just 375 feet to center field compared to 402 feet at the Diamond--so that should increase scoring.
The Rams will practice at Dorey Park, a recreational complex located about 15 minutes east of downtown Richmond that often plays host to slow-pitch softball leagues.