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On Campus: Eliminating Cap Won't Get Rubber Stamp



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—At the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention last week, ABCA executive director Craig Keilitz laid out the organization’s legislative agenda for the next two years. This year’s proposals—two modest tweaks to the rules for NCAA recruiting quiet periods—enjoy widespread support according to an ABCA survey, and are what Keilitz called "common sense” proposals. Next year’s proposals are not nearly as routine, however. Of the four rule changes the ABCA is interested in exploring, two received less than two-thirds support in a survey of Division I coaches (which had an 89 percent response rate). The other two have an approval rating of more than 85 percent, but transferring that level of support from the coaches to the administrators who vote on rule changes may present a challenge. Coaches and the ABCA have time to rally support, however, as next year’s proposals don’t have to be officially submitted by a conference or member school to the NCAA until September. "We’re working on that now,” Keilitz said. "We’ve got some time to garner support and so forth.” Most contentious of the proposals will be the move to eliminate the cap that limits schools to having 27 players on scholarship. That rule went into effect for the 2009-2010 school year and many coaches are not eager to return to the uncapped roster era. The rule change was supported by 59 percent of coaches in the survey (the lowest of any proposed rule change), but many coaches later expressed surprise it received even that much support. Many coaches at smaller schools are nervous about the proposition of eliminating the cap on scholarship players in conjunction with eliminating the rule requiring scholarships to be worth at least 25 percent. Without those rules in place, it would be easier for prominent schools to land more coveted recruits, increasing their depth and keeping players away from their less prestigious counterparts. Coaches are more receptive of the idea of doing away of the 25 percent scholarship requirement, with 65 percent indicating they support the rule change. With only 11.7 scholarships to spread across 27 players, the rule forces coaches to manipulate their available scholarships if there are any surprises in the draft. It also makes it difficult to hand out leftover scholarship money if a school has less than 25 percent remaining. Miami coach Jim Morris said operating with so few scholarships was difficult enough for coaches without adding any more restrictions. "I think that because baseball only gets 11.7 scholarships they shouldn't be telling us how to spend it," he said. "That's already tying one hand behind our back." Louisiana State coach Paul Mainieri was the chairman of the ABCA’s Division I committee in 2007 when the rule was passed by the NCAA. He said the only reason he supported the rule change at the time is that the original proposal also called for the total number of scholarships to be increased from 11.7 to 15. But before the rule was passed, that element was removed. "I would never have agreed to those other conditions had we not gotten the increase in scholarships,” he said. Mainieri said the additional restrictions on roster size and scholarship allotment have created more problems because of the unpredictable nature of the draft. "There are so many moving parts to roster management to have additional restrictions on us just makes it an impossible thing to manage,” he said. "Coaches have to over-recruit to cover themselves in the draft and then they have to pull scholarship offers to meet all the criteria. No one wanted that. That’s what we were trying to avoid.” Rich Maloney, Ball State coach and third vice president of the ABCA, said he thinks it’s time to evaluate the scholarship minimums and roster caps now that the system has been in place for several years. "It’s healthy to continue to look at it now that we’ve got a lot of years of evidence,” Maloney said. "I’m a proponent of growing the game across the country and not just in a section of the country. We always have to be looking at what we can do to grow our game in a positive way. We can see the results of what those changes did and we have to examine how to tweak them to move them forward or should we keep them the way they are. "But it’s just dialogue. People are talking. I don’t think it’s something that nationally 90 percent of people want to change. I think we’re getting honest dialogue right now.” That dialogue is sure to continue as coaches and administrators continue to examine the issues facing college baseball today. News and Notes Atlantic Coast Conference: As the coach of last year’s national champions, Virginia coach Brian O’Connor led off the ABCA clinic schedule with the traditional presentation "Building a Championship Program.” There were more than 5,600 coaches registered for the convention and O’Connor spoke to a packed ballroom Friday morning … Clemson officially announced outfielder Seth Beer and infielder Grayson Byrd have joined the team. Beer was originally scheduled to be a 2016 high school graduate, but chose to enroll early and is the first Tiger to do so since outfielder/quarterback Kyle Parker arrived on campus in 2008. Byrd, the son of former all-star righthander Paul Byrd, sat out the fall after transferring from Louisiana State after his freshman year. Big 12 Conference: Texas concluded a review of its student services for athletes and released a report Wednesday that found it was following all NCAA rules and university procedures, but also suggested ways it could improve. The report as a whole has much that will be of interest to college athletics administrators, but one nugget in particular stands out. About five percent of Texas students major in education, but the majority of Texas football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball players are enrolled in the College of Education. Among baseball players, 78 percent are education majors. Big Ten Conference: A mild start to the winter in the Midwest turned this week, as snow and cold weather moved in across the region. The change in weather happened just as programs begin individual workouts … Indiana has one of the oldest pitching staffs in the country. The Hoosiers' projected starting rotation is made up entirely of seniors, and two key relievers have also been in college for four years. Included in the mix is righthander Luke Stephenson, a transfer from Vanderbilt who is coming off shoulder surgery. The Indianapolis Star’s Athlete of the Year in 2012 pitched well in the fall and adds depth to the Hoosiers staff. Pacific 12 Conference: With Dean Stiles, who had served as Oregon’s pitching coach as a volunteer assistant since 2012, leaving to become the pitching coach at Florida International, coach George Horton is turning to a familiar face to replace him. Mitch Karraker, who caught for Oregon from 2009-2011, has been a part of the Ducks program in various capacities since it was reinstated in the 2009 season and will take over as pitching coach. His younger brother Jack is a redshirt senior righthander on the Ducks staff who is recovering from Tommy John surgery last spring … Washington athletic director Scott Woodward left the university last week to take the same position at Texas A&M. During the eight years Woodward was at Washington, the baseball team saw significant improvement, as coach Lindsay Meggs was hired in 2009 and Husky Ballpark underwent a major renovation that was completed in 2014. The same year the renovations were completed, the Huskies made their first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade. Southeastern Conference: The Assistant Coach of the Year award was presented to Brad Bohannon on Saturday at the ABCA/Diamond Kinetics Honors Luncheon. Bohannon was named the winner in October after his impressive work over the last 12 years at Kentucky. Soon after, he accepted a job at Auburn, joining the 2014 Assistant Coach of the Year and new Tigers head coach Butch Thompson. Among the other honorees were ABCA Honor Award recipients John Smoltz and David Price. During Price’s speech, the Red Sox lefthander congratulated Bohannon and talked about the importance of assistant coaches, whose role is often overlooked … Renovations at Vanderbilt have begun and will have a visible effect at Hawkins Field this year. A section of the wall in left-center field has been moved in slightly to accommodate construction equipment. The full project, which includes an expanded weight room and a locker room for professional players who return to Vanderbilt to work out, is expected to be completed by the summer of 2017 … Scouts will be more interested in how they hit this spring, but a few Florida stars showed off their dancing skills and performed with Florida’s dance team at a basketball game last weekend. Outfielder Buddy Reed said he had fun performing with the Dazzlers. "I thought I did pretty good,” he said. "I was in rhythm, in step.” Other conferences: Florida International and Ball State saw late shakeups to their coaching staffs with assistants coming and going from pro ball. Tighe Dickinson, who moved from Arkansas State to FIU this fall, accepted a job with the Indians as a minor league pitching coach. Ball State hired Chris Fetter
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, who had been a pro scout with the Angels, to serve as its pitching coach. Fetter played for Ball State coach Rich Maloney at Michigan, where the righthander was a three-time All-Big Ten selection … Long Beach State is beginning a renovation of Blair Field that will start by bringing in the fences of the notorious pitcher-friendly park. The new dimensions will be 335 feet down the left field line, 395 feet to center and 330 feet to right field, making home runs a bit easier to hit than the previous dimensions of 348 feet to the corners and 400 feet to dead center. The power alleys will also come in seven feet from the original 387-foot dimensions. The new dimensions will also likely be welcomed by the high school stars who play in the Area Code Games at Blair Field every August. Also included in the first phase will be the construction of the Troy & Danyll Tulowitzki Batting Facility, made possible in part by a $1 million donation from the former Dirtbag and his wife.

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