New Rules on the Table for College Baseball

CLEMSON – Try for a moment to imagine the rich history of Clemson baseball without the likes of Tyler Colvin, Khalil Greene, Michael Johnson, Jeff Baker, Steve Reba, Matt Henry, Casey Stone, Matt Padgett and Kyle Frank.

Almost seems impossible, doesn't it?

However, if the new NCAA regulations concerning baseball actually go into effect, then that aforementioned hypothetical scenario could become reality for future would-be Clemson baseball players.

The NCAA board of directors, of which Clemson President, Dr. James Barker, is the recently elected chairman, has voted in new policies with collegiate baseball that will go into effect for the fall semester of the 2008-09 school year.

Essentially, the new rules say that a baseball player must sit out a full year if he decides to transfer to another school, which is exactly what happens with the other sports.

Also, team's Academic Progress Rate must stay above 900, otherwise that team won't be allowed to participate in 10 percent of its scheduled games.

Then there's the new rule that more or less says a baseball player must be academically eligible the entire year, where in the past a player would a lot of times would coast through the spring and then rebuild his grades in the summer and fall to be eligible by January.

But the one new rule that has drawn the most criticism from many coaches is rule 11.7-33-27, which says schools can still only give out as many as 11.7 scholarships, but no scholarship can be given to a player less than 33 percent and only to as many as 27 players.

Currently, there are at least 30 baseball players at Clemson on some sort of scholarship, with two-thirds of them being less than 33 percent of a full ride.

The new rules would affect many of the players on the current roster and those that are still in high school, but have already committed. Of the eight high school juniors already committed to Clemson, six would receive less than a 33 percent of a scholarship.

All the memorable players mentioned above came to Clemson with less than a 33 percent scholarship. And many of them would never have played for the Tigers under the new rules.

"They weren't 33 percent players at that particular time," Clemson coach Jack Leggett said. "At the end, there's no telling what they were worth to our baseball program."

But that's in the past. What about now and the future?

"If this legislation goes through, we're going to have to call some of these committed juniors and tell them they can't come on scholarship," Leggett said. "You've got a mess. You going to have to treat people unfairly who really want to come to your school and have an opportunity to develop and play and get their education at Clemson. Now you place us in a very difficult position where we have to call them back and say, ‘Just kidding. Our commitment doesn't work.' And that is wrong."

Leggett, who is fiery and passionate about baseball, is also a humanitarian and very thoughtful of other's well being. And that's why this bothers him so much.

Under this new rule, with the limited amount of players that can be on scholarship, coaches could be forced to choose between a big-shot incoming freshman and a reliable and dedicated upperclassman.

Leggett could really be in a pickle if a star player like Taylor Harbin sometime in the near future chooses to return for his senior season, when many expected him to leave for the pros early. How does Leggett choose between a freshman and Harbin?

Then there's the case of Stan Widmann, who redshirted this year and still has two years of eligibility remaining. There really could come a moment where Leggett has to choose between keeping Widmann on scholarship or putting an incoming freshman on scholarship.

"I've been doing this 30 years, I can't think of one thing that's come up during that time that makes me more uncomfortable than the thought of having to call up one of your players who wants to come back his senior year and finish off his degree and tell him he can't come back to school on scholarship," Leggett said. "Or call an incoming freshman, whose parents have committed to coming to Clemson and give away opportunities to go to other schools, and you tell them you can't come to school because you have to be at a rigid 27.

"A rigid 27 and 33 percent, in my opinion, were not thought out on how the ramifications could affect everybody. In some instances, you might have to call a kid that's already bought everything for his dorm room and tell him he can't come."

The new rule could really hit the small and Northern schools even harder, which generally only have a very limited number of scholarships to deal with. Leggett understands the problem there, too. He played at Maine and coached at Western Carolina.

If a program in the North or at a small school is given two scholarships, that's only six scholarship players allowed. In the past, it could have been as many as 12 or 14.

"The first thing I'm trying to do is make everybody aware of what the ramifications are," Leggett said. "From there, I think you have to get everybody together and we have to try and have them take a commonsense approach and have them look at this thing another time and understand that there's some real problems. We have to take a look at this before it becomes concrete." Top Stories