Image credit: Jake Mangum (Photo by Getty Images)
OMAHA — Following a 4-3 walk-off loss against Louisville in an elimination game at the College World Series, Mississippi State senior center fielder Jake Mangum gave an emotional press conference. His storied college career was over, falling short of winning an elusive national championship for the Bulldogs.
But as the press conference was wrapping up, Mangum took the microphone and made one last exceptional play in his college career. He made an impassioned plea for more scholarships and to pass legislation approving a third full-time assistant coach for baseball.
“College baseball is evolving,” Mangum said. “It is. I just want to let everyone know, it’s time for a third paid assistant coach in college baseball. There’s a million people averaging watching this game. There’s 30,000 people in that stadium. This is my second time in Omaha. It’s time. This game is evolving. It’s growing. Every year it keeps getting bigger.
“In this dugout, on that field, there were 27 players on each team. You start off with 35, you come (to Omaha) with 27. Of those 35, there’s 11.7 on each team on scholarship. Like, man, this game is getting way too big for that.
“These were the best four years of my life, and it’s time to adapt with that. Every year we’ve had assistant coaches that have not been paid who spend hours upon hours upon hours doing all they can for our program, sleeping in the offices, scouting for us, dealing with camps.
“Come on, man. Go out there and watch that game. There’s 30,000 people in that stadium. A million people watching it. Come on. It’s time to change. It really is.”
Mangum’s statement was perhaps the most prominent statement on scholarships and the third assistant coach proposal to date, given his status as a player and the stage he delivered it on. Both issues face difficult challenges—increasing scholarships has been treated like a nonstarter for years and the third assistant proposal was defeated in April by a close vote in the Division I council. There have been some rumblings of a recall for that vote, but it is unclear how quickly that could take place.
Regardless of the feasibility of an increase in scholarships and creating a third paid assistant coach position, it was still extraordinary to see a player whose career had just ended in heartbreaking fashion to use his platform to advocate for significant improvements to the game.
Mangum is one of the biggest stars in college baseball—he’s an All-American and finished his career No. 4 on the Division I all-time hits list. But he later said that he spent the last two years as a walk-on, as Mississippi State tried best to juggle its allotment of 11.7 scholarships.
Mangum’s words carry weight and his prominence, combined with the stage he delivered them on, should catch the attention of people in power at the NCAA and its member institutions. In an era where players have more power, it’s possible that him speaking out has more of a chance to effect change than a coach or even some administrators.