Play ball, but how about we play fair?

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Ole Miss athletic communications

This was the scene on opening night of the 2016 Oxford Regional.

 

The NCAA Division I baseball season begins this weekend, which means this is as good a time as any to spotlight the biggest injustice in all of sports.

Long-time readers will know where this is headed.

The NCAA allows D-I baseball programs a total of 11.7 scholarships, to be divided among 27 players.

Melanie Thortis

Rick Cleveland

You do the math. Or like college baseball coaches, get out your calculator. You will learn that college baseball players receive what amounts to an average scholarship of 43.3 percent of a full ride.

It’s not fair.

The third string nickel back and the second team long snapper on your favorite college football team probably receive full scholarships, while your star shortstop might get as little as 25 percent of his tuition, books, room and board.

Fair?

Of course not.

College football, which requires 11 players on the field at a time, gets 85 scholarships. College basketball, which requires five players on the court at a time, gets 13 scholarships.

College baseball, which requires nine players on the field at a time, gets 11.7. Most college teams have more than 11.7 pitchers without even considering the other positions.

You might ask: 11.7? Who the hell came up with 11.7?

The NCAA, that’s who, the same organization that allows 4.5 for water polo and 12.6 for lacrosse.

These scholarship limits date back to the advent of Title IX to ensure the equality of women’s sports. Title IX came along in 1972, back before college baseball was big business.

In 1972, few college baseball programs even charged for admission to the games. Not many college baseball facilities had lights, much less luxury suites. College baseball was a total drain on the athletic budget.

That’s no longer the case. The NCAA should adjust its scholarship limits accordingly.

The baseball scholarship limit seems particularly unfair here in Mississippi, where college baseball draws huge crowds. Ole Miss announced last week that it has sold more than 6,000 season tickets. Mississippi State, as of Thursday morning, had sold about 5,600. LSU led the nation in attendance last year, with Ole Miss second and State third. Southern Miss was tops in Conference USA and 19th in the nation. All three lease luxury suites and have waiting lists for those.

And yet Mike Bianco, Andy Cannizaro and Scott Berry must divide 11.7 scholarships among 27 players. That comes out to an average of 43.3 percent of a full scholarship per player. And these guys likely will play more than 60 games.

Again, it’s not fair. It’s not even close.

I keep thinking back to the way the 2016 college baseball season ended. State, Ole Miss and USM all made the NCAA Tournament. State lost in a Super Regional to eventual College World Series runner-up Arizona before record crowds. Ole Miss lost its on Regional before record crowds. After winning the Conference USA Tournament in Hattiesburg, USM lost in a NCAA Regional at Tallahassee. State won 44 games. Ole Miss won 43 games. USM won 41. All three were in the Top 20 in RPI.

And yet, each player who made that all possible was playing for an average of less than a half scholarship.

No, it’s not fair.

Not even close.

Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog. Reach Rick at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

Check out other news at mississippitoday.org and follows us on Twitter @MSTODAYnews.

  • Otis

    When has the NCAA ever been logical of even fair?

  • Rusty Alston

    That is The Truth!

  • Brandon Smith

    Rick, while I agree that the number of baseball scholarships should be increased could you go more into the what, why, and how? Shouldn’t you have researched and reported the Vandy’s and VA’s who have/use an endowment to better fund the baseball program thus possible creating an unlevel playing field among college baseball programs?

    The “this is not fair” argument is weak in your article. From my perspective, your article does not more than conjure up images of a child stomping in a sandbox.

    You’re a great writer. Be one.