Updated: Jul 20, 2022
With all the chaos surrounding the NCAA right now, many people recognize that the current model is in need of change. Whatever that change may be, it’s obvious that college sports will look a lot different in 2042 than they do in 2022. With the proliferation of NIL inducements and the implementation of the one time transfer waiver, there is no shortage of debate about what’s right and what’s wrong surrounding all of the chaos. Amid all of the discussion surrounding these issues, I feel that a recent new development coming out of the NCAA has gone unreported.
The NCAA Transformation Committee is a group of top administrators who have the difficult responsibility of overhauling and modernizing the NCAA’s governance over college sports. After their most recent meeting discussing big picture issues, reports surfaced that the group is considering some monumental changes that could affect a certain college sport that has long received the cold shoulder from the NCAA.
Under the NCAA's current rules, college baseball teams are only allowed to have two paid assistant coaches. With 35 players on most rosters, this leaves college baseball with the highest player to coach ratio of any sport. While teams are only allowed to have two paid assistants, many also have a “volunteer” assistant who is unpaid and not allowed to recruit.
In the last several years, there has been a strong push by many in college baseball to increase the number of paid assistants. The most recent proposal for a third paid assistant to the NCAA was denied in 2019 in a close vote determined by powerful athletic administrators.
The cap on the amount of paid assistants has inevitably drawn many potentially great coaches away from the profession. With no salary or benefits, it's hard for a young coach to take a volunteer position and live off money from camps and lessons throughout the year. In addition to the lack of compensation, these volunteer coaches are not allowed to recruit off campus, an important skill to develop for any coach.
In support of getting a third paid assistant coach, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin painted the picture of the typical unpaid volunteer’s life.
“I’m 32 years old, “Corbin described to the assembled media. “I’m married, I have a child, I leave home at 7:30 every morning, I come back at 8, 9 at night. I do it Sunday through Sunday. I don’t get paid. I don’t get compensated. My wife stays home with a baby, and can't afford daycare. And God forbid he goes to daycare, gets sick; I don’t have benefits, so I can’t pay for that.
“Can't get a ticket to a football game, can't get a ticket to a basketball game, can't eat with a recruit. Why? I'm a volunteer. I stay all year, I work; I've got to go off in the summer, work camps. Why? I can't recruit. I'm a volunteer. I make camp money, I come home, put stress on my wife, can't have another child. Costs money to have children; can't do it. I’m a volunteer."
Corbin, concluded with “It's the most short-sighted-thinking aspect of our game that we've been a part of. We lose good people to other jobs, other sports. They leave baseball because they can't afford to stay in it.Why that hasn't been changed, why that hasn't been turned over in the last couple of years is really, really sinful. It's dehumanizing in so many different ways.”
Good news could be on the way, however. The NCAA Transformation Committee is considering lifting the number of paid assistant coaches a school can have. While nothing is certain (especially in today’s era of college athletics), there is growing optimism that the new landscape of college sports may allow for schools to decide how many coaches they want on their respective staffs. While many schools will up their number of football and basketball assistants, I believe many baseball programs will add paid assistants because of the intense amount of work each coach puts in right now.
The cap on the number of paid assistants doesn’t make sense in today’s era of college athletics. If a school wants to pay more coaches, why shouldn't they be able to? The counterargument is that “the rich will get richer” and the elite will separate from the rest of the pack. But if you follow college baseball (and college sports in general), the schools with the most resources are often the only ones that compete for championships on an annual basis. So, when you’re watching college baseball down the stretch and into Omaha for the College World Series later this Summer, look at the amount of coaches in each dugout. Hopefully, that amount will grow as a result of the NCAA Transformational Committee’s latest discussions.
Brendan can be found on Twitter @_bbell5