Will new NCAA rules change the game?

The NCAA introduced a new set of rules on August 1st, 2008 that many saw as game-changers concerning college baseball players. Here at Spartanburg Stingers, we decided to write an article in order to shed light on this event and help you better understand to full extent what these changes are about.

Perhaps the only reason why you have heard about these new rules is because of the backlashthat was generated both in sports media and with baseball players all over the country.

If you are familiar with the NCAA then you already know that they already have a limited number of scholarships that they can award each season, that is 11.7 scholarships distributed to more than 30 players. This new legislation will further dictate how these scholarships can be won.

Scholarships in baseball aren’t always awarded in full. A coach is often forced to divide the 11.7 scholarships among 25 and more players that are on a team. This way, even if players don’t get a full scholarship, at least all of them can receive some form of financial help.

Baseball programs from Division I have a limit of 11.7 scholarships, and the practice of breaking up the scholarships and dividing them to all of them is fairly common.

This isn’t the first time the NCAA has been criticized. Sport fans and players lashed out against the institution when it decided to reduce the number of scholarships awarded to college baseball players, this way eliminating coaching positions and significantly lowering the number of games baseball teams could play each spring.

For reasons unknown to us, college baseball has always been overlooked by the institution when it came to scholarships. To put things in comparison, Division I – A football teams receive 85 scholarships each season. OK, this may be understandable since football is America’s favorite sport, but basketball teams, both men’s and women’s, receive 13 full scholarships each season. For women’s equestrian, 15 scholarships are awarded and women’s crew teams receive 20 scholarships. This makes baseball the least favorite sport of the organization as college baseball teams get only 11.7 scholarships per team.

Starting with the 2008 – 2009 academic year, the new rules went into full effect, capping baseball rosters to 35 players, dictating that only 30 players can be eligible for financial aid. This number was reduced further in 2009 – 2010 to 27 players, with the additional stipulation that each of these players must receive at least 1/3 of a full scholarship.

The new legislation also prohibits college baseball players from transferring to another school. Those who do have to sit out one full year before they can play again. Compare this to football, basketball and men’s hockey where the penalty is only one season for transferring. The NCAA has justified these new rules as a means to increase player retention and graduation rates for college baseball.

In addition to this, baseball players must be eligible for admission during fall semester in order to play the following spring. This means that summer school is now mandatory for those who want to play. The problem is that most college baseball players cannot afford to pay the fees for summer school and thus cannot attend. Because scholarships are limited and they have to be divided among many players, a 4% scholarship during the academic year will be the same for summer school. Football and basketball players who receive a full scholarship have no trouble attending summer school because all costs are covered by the scholarship.

These changes come from the NCAA’s Academic Performance Rates, which monitors each student’s individual progress toward obtaining an academic degree. Those teams that do not reach the 925 score in the APR (which is equal to a 50% graduation rate) are at risk of losing their scholarships.

The NCAA has released a list of all programs that were subject to penalties because they failed to meet the APR score. Out of 112 programs, 1/4th were baseball teams.

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