GIDEL: If Only Morris Had Played Baseball

As if the family of Randolph Morris had heard enough about the many mistakes they have made within the last month and half, here's another one.

According to NCAA policy, if only little Randolph Morris had held a bat instead of a ball and played with a glove instead of hoop, he'd be scat free and headed back to Lexington without any scars, bumps or bruises.

That's right folks, Morris' biggest flaw to date? He chose the wrong sport.

Surprisingly, in a day and age where the NCAA is more concerned about dollars than the individual amateur athletes they are designed to protect, a strange loophole exists in college baseball that allows them to be drafted more times than the Constitution without ever losing any draft rights or amateur standing.

Example A: Former high school All-American and Mr. Kentucky baseball, Jeremy Sowers.

After a month of negotiations with the Cincinnati Reds, whom chose him 20th overall in the 2001 Draft, the electrifying Ballard High School product out of Louisville (Ky.) spurned the Reds for Vanderbilt University, where he helped lead the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament.

Citing a desire to get his degree and compete at the highest collegiate baseball level, Sowers improved enough to move up 14 spots to the Cleveland Indians, whom chose him 6th overall in the MLB Amateur Draft in June of 2004.

Sowers was recently moved up to Double-A ball for the Akron Aeros.

No harm. No foul. Sowers negotiated with the team that drafted him. He listened, learned and decided against going pro. Three years later, he carried out the same process, only with the Indians instead of the Reds.

Had he not wanted to play for the Indians or had they not offered enough money, he could have gone back to school for another year and stayed at Vanderbilt for his senior season.

That's right. If Randolph was in pinstripes last season, he would have never had to worry about his current predicament.

According to ESPN, an estimated 61% of college baseball starters are drafted at least once, before ever participating in Division 1 athletics, all of which are neither prohibited nor punished for doing so. In fact, the rule is fairly dumb-proof: you don't sign with an agent, you can play college baseball. Rules are even less lenient in the junior college baseball system, where you can get drafted any and every season if you wished.

Of course, there is a small print ‘catch' at the bottom of the letter of intent that follows a college baseball player, whom chooses against going junior college. Simply stated, if you aren't good enough to be drafted out of high school or you choose to skip the professional ranks and improve at the collegiate level, you must play at least three seasons before becoming draft eligible again. At that time you can choose to sign with that team that drafted you or play your senior year.

An option All-American pitcher, Jeremy Sowers could have utilized had he been drafted later than expected in 2004.

In essence, the NCAA is doing everything possible for the collegiate athlete in this instance. The MLB amateur draft is a long and outrageous process where athletes from across the globe are utilized as nothing more than ‘chum,' sometimes even picked for entertainment purposes.

It's a different stance than the one that the NCAA takes with the NBA, but one at which they give its student athletes the deserving leverage. A student-athlete is not ‘stuck' and has options when he is or isn't drafted out of high school or as a junior.

Something the Morris family desperate is seeking.

So why, in a day and age where college basketball has been losing its stars each year to the NBA, would a rule exist that prohibits a college basketball star from returning to college after he enters the draft (agent free) a second time?

That question remains sadly, unanswered. Isn't that the general idea of college? To offer individual students a competitive edge against others in the world?

What harm does the NCAA have in allowing a student athlete to enter his name in the draft without hiring an agent and only determine his fate after the draft is over? What's the point in ruining the future of good standing amateur athletes whom has no guarantee in a two-round draft?

These are the sad realities of our current situation in the world of college athletics according to the NCAA.

My solution? Read your college baseball manual. Let the kids choose after the Draft is over what they want to do for their future. Give them the leverage and the bargaining advantage.

The biggest problem with amateur sport is agents - from bad advice to bad business - they are out to single handedly ruin the game so many love. The only way to completely eliminate them is to make them completely irrelevant. Which is what they would be before the NBA Draft if the current college baseball rule was in effect.


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