Aria Gerson, USA TODAY Published 4:17 p.m. ET June 10, 2020 | Updated 5:33 p.m. ET June 10, 2020
What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale discusses why a universal DH will likely become the new normal in MLB, even beyond the 2020 season. USA TODAY
The NCAA Division I Committee for Legislative Relief has loosened roster restrictions for baseball programs for the upcoming season, USA TODAY Sports has confirmed.
For the upcoming 2021 season, the 35-man roster limit has been lifted, the annual scholarship counter was raised from 27 to 32 and the 25 percent scholarship minimum was temporarily lifted. However, the NCAA did not pass an additional SEC proposal that would increase the number of total scholarships from 11.7 to 13.7.
The news was originally reported by Kendall Rogers of DI Baseball.
Previously, the NCAA had allowed seniors whose season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic to return for a fifth year without counting against the roster limit. These additional measures were granted because the MLB draft was cut from 40 rounds to five, which could lead to more undrafted players coming back to school.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri approves of the roster changes but wishes they were done earlier. (Photo: Nati Harnik, AP)
MLB DRAFT: A look at the top 2020 prospects
MLB DRAFT HISTORY: The best player ever picked at every spot from 1-30
“I think it’s a good thing because what you hate to see is players just getting released from your program simply because you have to make a roster limit of 35,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri told USA TODAY Sports. “This year there’s kind of a surplus on each team because of the limited Major League draft and also the granting of an extra year of eligibility.”
Arizona State coach Tracy Smith, who helped author the Pac-12 proposal that was ultimately accepted, was happy with the move.
“You got multiple student-athletes that you anticipated losing in the draft,” Smith told USA TODAY Sports. “You have multiple signings coming, some that that you thought they would be taken in a 40-round draft. And now have this whole pool of guys with binding agreements. You either had to tell the kids they couldn’t come or be in NCAA violation. They would have been running off a lot of kids. This allows you to honor a number of commitments and not put a burden on the athletic budget.’’
Mainieri wishes the relief would have been announced earlier because he already had conversations with players that he didn’t believe he would have room for next year, only to find out that there would be space after all. LSU had six players enter the transfer portal this offseason, though one has since decided to return to the Tigers. Much of that attrition was because of the expected roster crunch that never came to fruition.
With bigger rosters a fact of life, Division I baseball programs must now figure out how to divide up their scholarships. The combination of the roster limit being lifted and the scholarship limit remaining the same now means there’s less money available for a larger roster.
“The most immediate concern is simply that you may be over your 11.7 scholarships because you have an additional incoming class plus the four classes already in your program and the amount of money you can divvy up between all these players puts a lot of stress on each team,” Mainieri said.
That’s where the elimination of the scholarship minimum comes in. Schools are now allowed to reduce players’ scholarships below the 25 percent minimum in order to make scholarship money available to more players and may negotiate with athletes on which portion of their money they will receive. Additionally, teams are allowed to have five more players on scholarship than they were previously permitted.
While waiting until June to announce the news has caused problems for some teams, the new roster rules will allow baseball programs to bring back more players next season and to make more room for freshmen, walk-ons and undrafted returners.
“I wish they would’ve let us know this a month ago because it would’ve probably changed a little bit of our strategy for players that we talked to,” Mainieri said. “But that’s the way it is and if it helps some teams as far as letting kids stay involved in their program I think that’s a good thing.”
Contributing: Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports
Share your feedback to help improve our site experience!