While the immediate impact is to their liking, college baseball coaches see potential long-term challenges with eligibility decisions the NCAA Council made last week.
"Roster management is something we’re going to be talking a lot about for the next five years," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said during a Friday teleconference.
Because of the cancellation of their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted an additional year of eligibility to all spring sports athletes.
That won’t be an issue in baseball in 2021, when the current 35-player roster limitations will be suspended to accommodate seniors who lost their final season of eligibility when seasons were canceled in mid-March.
"I don’t think anyone has an issue with restoring the eligibility of the seasons, giving them an opportunity to play one final season if they choose, a chance to get some closure to their college careers," Hartleb said.
"It will provide them with an opportunity to complete their degrees or begin work in a Master’s program, which will benefit them throughout their lives. That’s a good thing."
In Monday’s decision, the NCAA did not extend those roster limitations beyond the 2021 season, and that is where things get complicated.
"With the recruiting that has been done, the commitments that have been received for future classes, there will be a real challenge getting that number back to 35 after 2021," Hartleb said.
Iowa coach Rick Heller said in a recent teleconference he feels some sort of temporary expansion of rosters is necessary until impacted classes matriculate through programs.
"Baseball is really difficult every year, every day, trying to manage that with so many uncontrollable," Heller said. "At the end of the day right now, it has to add up. If we’re going to give eligibility back, then we have to make the concession with the existing limitations."
If not, Hartleb said roster cuts could become an unwelcomed necessity, something that is only complicated by the expectation that Major League Baseball will reduce its draft from 40 rounds to as few as five.
The reduction in the size of the draft will lead to a reduction in early departures by players, creating additional stress on roster size.
Hartleb tried to lay all of that out to his players during a team meeting last week, echoing things that college coaches across the country will be telling their teams at some point in the near future.
"It’s much different than what we’ve had to deal with in the past," Hartleb said.
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