Everything College Sports

For those interested in all things college sports

“When I went into college I was a boy, and when I left I was a man!” – Patrick Ewing

With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training camps in less than a week and a half, I figured I would post about my favorite sport, and America’s pastime, baseball! Prior to my time at Ohio University, I attended the University of Missouri and served as the student manager and bullpen catcher for the Tigers baseball team. I had the pleasure of catching two first round pitchers as well as work with three major leaguers during my time at Mizzou. During my time I also witnessed at least five of our recruits forgo their collegiate career for the chance to play minor league baseball as an 18 year old and begin living their childhood dream. Of these five players that chose to pursue their professional career early, only one of the players is currently at a higher level within their team’s farm system compared to those who signed to come to Missouri, and came, the same year. For this reason, I believe that high school baseball players should attend college, unless they are offered a signing bonus upwards of $1 million.

The possibility of making a major league team is very slim as there are only 750 spots; spread throughout 30 teams with a 25-man roster. Keep in mind that there are over 220 MLB affiliated minor league teams, ranging from different types of rookie teams to AAA teams, with at least 25 players on each team. Doing the math that leads to over 5,500 affiliated minor league players. Along with these teams, there are independent leagues that have had some success in producing major league talent, see the Northern League or Golden League, as well as foreign players who have access to major league affiliated training facilities and leagues in their home country. This leads to a pool of roughly 10,000 professional athletes competing for 750 spots. With this being said, if one gets drafted in the first round or is offered more than $1 million, which is late first round money, later on in the draft, they should not turn down this opportunity. These players will get more chances and a longer leeway period than the lower paid minor leaguer.

Along with the small percentage of those who make the minor leagues, I believe that the benefits one gains from attending college outweigh the benefits from a signing bonus one might receive straight out of high school. To begin with, the social experiences one receives in the college setting are second to none. A group of thousands of 18 year-old kids get to experience the social eye opener that is college life and life on their own. These new collegians move out of the comfort of their parents’ home to a dormitory full of others in the same shoe as they are in. These times allow for mistakes to be made, lessons to be learned and fun times to be had. Maturity is built in these college years and life’s necessities are learned, something that is made infinitely harder when an 18 year-old kid is thrown into the baseball world on his own.

Another benefit of attending college rather than going straight into professional baseball is the education one receives. Baseball comes and goes, but brain power and a degree stick with you forever. The average career span for a major leaguer, the only league in which you make substantial money, is 5.6 years. This shows that baseball is not forever and “normal” work will need to be done to earn an income. By attending college, even if it is for the minimum three years that is required if one attends and plays at a Division I university, one will have began the path towards his degree and should be close to finishing the degree. Also, most professional teams will cover the rest of your schooling when you sign to play pro ball, something not always done when a high school player is drafted. By going to college you gain a fall back in case of an injury or if your career does not pan out.

These benefits; as well as increased one-on-one baseball training, year-round baseball training, career development training, and gaining lifelong friends; all lead to my belief in that high school baseball players should attend college. With this being said, I do not think the opportunity for a high school player to go straight into professional baseball should be prohibited. If one wants to start making money they should be allowed to, just as any other American is for other jobs all across the country. However, by signing a letter of intent and showing up to the college campus on the first day of classes, the student should be required to stay for at least three years, which they are in collegiate baseball. I believe that this is what sets the baseball model apart from the current basketball model of one and done.

The basketball model not only hurts the elite high school basketball player, as he cannot begin his professional career, but hurts the  player’s institution as well. With  the player leaving after just one year an institution bypasses a potential four year commitment from another recruit, an institution may be stuck with an unused scholarship for the next year, and the institution would be hit by the academic progress rate (APR). By a player leaving, the team is hit with a one point APR loss and potentially another point if the player does not finish his spring semester, which is likely when training for the upcoming draft. The university is required to make a scholarship commitment to the player and the player should be the same.

This is an ever-changing topic idea in all areas of collegiate sports. Remember back in the Maurice Clarett era when he attempted to enter the draft early and was followed by USC receiver Mike Williams and a few high school players? This is such a big deal in basketball that it is attached with the leagues collective bargaining agreement. Should high school players be allowed to go pro out of high school? Should there be a collegiate length requirement? What do you think about this issue?

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February 6, 2009 - Posted by | Academics, Baseball, Uncategorized |

5 Comments »

  1. Paul this is a big issue for me–if someone wants to try to go pro at anytime–he or she should be allowed to. This is America and no one should be forced to go to college who does not want to be there, nor who has the academic preparation to be there. We need to realize that anyone can go to college at anytime, it does not have to be at the age of 18. The best advice I got was “this is America–you can go to college if you want to.” Regardless of finances, race, gender, or academic prepartion, if someone wants to do it, they can-at anytime.

    I do agree Paul that the baseball model is certainly better than the joke of the one and done, but still if someone wants to go pro at anytime they should be able to. No one should be forced to stay three years, especially if those three years (most notably in football and basketball) are simply being used as a minor league training ground with education being a mere facade. Maurice Clarett did not really attend college nor get anything close to a college experience. He was there to play, and Ohio State used him to win games and then got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and they rode him out on a rail, but not before he scored that TD in the national championship game. Was Maurice good enough to go pro–probably not, but it doesn’t matter because everyone should have the opportunity to try and not being able to make is part of life’s journey and one must pick themselves back up after failure.

    Keeping kids on campus, coddling them, keeping them in watered down majors and in a sport that likely keeps them away from the benefits of a true college experience is not something that is going to make one a man and in many cases it is a false promise. As Elden Campbell once said when asked if he deserved the degree he got from Clemson–“No but they gave me one anyway.” We are keeping our eye off the ball so to speak.

    Should all athletes go to college–well it depends if they want to– not if they have to. Athletes have a finate time to showcase their skills for money, and if one fails, it might actually motivate them to go back and do something else. It does no one any good to have a Randy Moss who without a doubt could have went right to the NFL out of high school and been a star, come to Marshall University which in turn spends millions on a mechanism to keep him eligible just so he can play. Randy did not grow into a man–in fact he regressed into a person who was unable to think or do things for himself. He received little or no educational benefit from his “attendance” at college.

    Give me kids that want to be in college–even if they are unprepared–and they can succeed, but the ones who have no interest and who are forced to go under the facade of a promise of education should be allowed to go pro at anytime to see if they can do it. They can always return to college one day.

    So–I say–more developmental leagues, no age restrictions, etc. so there is a clear understanding that if you come to campus you will be an actual college student, not a pay for play player that develops for a short time just to run away and go pro.

    Comment by B. David Ridpath | February 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. Dave, am I reading your comment (along with your comment from the value of a student-athlete education) correctly in that schools should be required to give 4 or 5 year scholarships while student-athletes should have the freedom to leave whenever they want?? How is that fair to coaches trying to build teams and more importantly in my view.. how can “we” teach commitment and loyalty if it is a one sided agreement?

    Comment by Heather Lawrence | February 7, 2009 | Reply

  3. Several things here Heather-one there is no loyalty on the part of the coaches who always leave whenever they want despite having a contract and who absolutely show no loyalty. Team loyalty cannot be built on a one year pay for play scholarship situation where the scholly can be cut for any reason and sadly happens mostly when the coaches job hop and violate their own contracts. Loyalty is not built when a coach is only interested in winning and not education. Also Coaches certainly cannot build a team, nor loyalty, with a one and done scenario under any circumstance.

    Still you bring up a good point and one I need to clarify on my part. One of the things that I am trying to bring across is that the scholarship reform and bringing in kids who want to be in college while simultaneously letting gets go pro who want to– and having additional developmental opportunities outside the college walls-can actually help coaches and build team loyalty. How you ask? Under this model, you will have kids who want to be in college for the right reasons and who will use that educational award to their proper benefit and I believe more likely to stay in school. While colleges can still be used for “athletic development” per se and kids can still go pro, to the olympics, etc after enrollment (or when they want but I think that will be few and far between)–the main purpose of the scholarship is flipped, kids stay for the right reasons, and for the most part I believe you have college students playing college sports instead of it being used as an incubator for money and winning–essentially exploiting the athlete.

    It is a changing of the model and mindset of the purpose of college sports–and bringing the coach back to being a educator first. Does that mean we should honor a coach’s contract and not put all emphasis on winning and fire them before the contract is even up? Yes it does-it works both ways.

    The scholarship piece is just part of the baby steps that need to happen in college athletics–but the main goals should not be winning and building a team with winning and revenue generation as the primary motivations. To me that does not show any loyalty.

    Comment by B. David Ridpath | February 7, 2009 | Reply

  4. Big Dave, This is one of those situations where I think there are differences by sport. I do not like to “group” sports, but I feel like your statements are a reaction to 2 (maybe 3) sports and not all of the sports sponsored by NCAA institutions. A hugely vast majority of college teams are operating as you describe as how they should be in an ideal situation. It is the 2 or so sports that we are talking about with issues.

    I am not entirely opposed to what you are suggesting and I would be all for D-leagues in a lot of sports. I definitely think that there should be choices for athletes who do not want to go to college.

    But I do believe that there are lots and lots of coaches who are educators first, are loyal, and do honor scholarship commitments. But, I don’t think anyone should get a 4-5 year ride without having to produce and work for 4-5 years. Most institutions have the best interest of the athlete at heart and when I was involved in a scholarship reduction or cancellation as an administrator is was definitely deserved. A student-athlete (who is an adult) should not receive aid if they are not doing the right things to contribute to the team.

    Comment by Heather Lawrence | February 9, 2009 | Reply

  5. I am in agreement to a point–although I have seen abuse of this in all sports. I think we need to define what producing is versus what under what other reasons could a five year grant be terminated. I just don’t think performance can be effectively defined? Sure there are reasons that it should be, I sat on one where a girl flat out quit and felt she still deserved the scholarship–that’s a no brainer to terminate her aid. However, the scholarship should only be taken away for reasons defined by the institution or under fraudulent misrepresentation decided by an entity outside of athletics. If we allow it to be based on a one year “athletic performance” scale then who defines that? I have seen coaches use that argument across the spectrum and my position is-it should be an educational award and as a a coach you have an obligation to recruit and develop the athlete, not be able to toss them away for an athletics reason because he/she is not good enough of a coach to develop someone they recruited and frankly someone who coaches often say they are “responsible” for.

    It is too easy to toss a kid aside, and it happens in all sports too often. If it is not an educational award, then it really is a pay for play contract and the athlete deserves more bargaining power if the primary purpose is athletics and they do not have control over their educational pursuits. Coaches can still build teams, they just have to do it under a different model and the quick fix mentality will no longer be an option.

    Producing athletically is too nebulous and certainly something I am leery about putting in a coach’s hands–but the new model is somthing I compare to an ROTC scholarship–you are recruited to get it, there are standards you must meet such as morning workouts, weekend training, summer duties, Battalion duties, extra curricular activities, academic performance etc. If you do not make those or perform to the standards, it is documented and could have a detrimental effect on the scholly because the criteria is not being met–but it is far from done automatically. A cadet is not replaced by someone better if the standards are being met and if that person is not meeting the standard, the “coaches” spend time developing that person, they just don’t replace them because they brought them there under a guaranteed 4 year scholarship.

    I know that sounds simple, but at the end of the day–it just cannot be about winning and losing all of the time and a five year scholly will not eliminate the ability to truly cast off one that deserves to be, but it will make it tremendously difficult to dance with the prettier girl, just because the coach is able to leave the one they brought to the dance.

    Comment by B. David Ridpath | February 9, 2009 | Reply


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