Georgia's Perno Talks About the Hope Scholarship

Several states have lottery-based academic scholarships that provide tuition and books to any high school students, including athletes, in those states as long as they have a certain grade point average or in some cases a certain SAT or ACT as well. Due to the way the NCAA counts athletic scholarships, the sports in college that have partial scholarships, sports like baseball, can use this scholarship to supplement the athletic scholarship they give to their in-state signees.

MSU head baseball coach Ron Polk wants this changed by the NCAA or SEC so that any kid who is recruited and gets one of these scholarships will be counted toward the 11.7 scholarships that college baseball receives. Georgia head baseball coach David Perno gave his viewpoint on the Hope Scholarship, the lottery-based academic program in Georgia.

What exactly does a Hope Scholarship provide to a high school student attending college?
"The Hope Scholarship gives tuition and books if you have a 3.0 grade point average high school and maintain that same grade point average in college. Now the academic standards are going to be correlated with the SAT and ACT. Plus, the students are also going to have to pay miscellaneous fees on top of it. So, basically, it is going to be about a 30% scholarship."

You coach at a school that has the Hope Scholarship Program. Do you think it makes a difference in the SEC since some schools have these type lottery-based scholarships and some don't?
"The schools in the SEC are all good. Vanderbilt is a private school that costs $24,000 a year and they swept us and Mississippi State.

"I realize it is a benefit, but we have to share the players in Georgia with Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern. Plus, we have more schools in our state. The Division-II programs are also extremely good.

"I know it's a huge advantage but not as big of an advantage to us as Georgia having a lot of good high school players. We have more to choose from.

"But I don't have (what MSU has) to show our (recruits). I don't have skyboxes or a Left Field Lounge. So, it's a level playing field. Some schools have different advantages. That's just part of it."

To correct what he perceives as an unequal playing field in the SEC, Coach Polk wants either the SEC or the NCAA to rule that any player who receives a lottery-based scholarship like the Hope or Topps, and is considered a recruited player, to count against the 11.7 scholarships that college baseball receives. Would you tell the president of your university to vote to count against your 11.7 any Hope Scholarship money you give to any player you recruit?
"No, that would be stupid to do because I have to play ACC teams like Georgia Tech and Clemson during the mid-week and they are still going to benefit from it. If I have to play against the same schools (Georgia Tech, Clemson, Georgia Southern) that I recruit against, I have to have it.

"But Coach Polk can come into Georgia and get athletes that won't even get (academically) accepted to our school. He signed two kids that scored 1200 on the SAT. I can't even get them into my school with that score."

When you look at who is not going to make the SEC Tournament, three of the four (MSU, Alabama, Auburn) are teams that don't have any kind of Hope or Topps academic scholarship programs. Does that tend to reinforce the argument that those kind of scholarships help those schools that have them?
"That's true, but the Hope has been around a while and those schools were in it last year."

Once the Hope Scholarship academic standards are raised, will it be more difficult for the students to keep their scholarships?
"It is actually extremely tough now. And none of them keep it (very long when they have been in college for a few semesters). The percentage of those that keep it is low. We probably only have a few kids on our team that maintains (the required) 3.0 (GPA). That means you either have the problem of getting them in academically or them keeping it academically.

"While the Hope is a benefit to our kids, if we do our job and I don't have the Hope, we are going to get the kids we want. You have to protect your own (state)."

What's the real bottom line solution to this problem?
"The problem is the 11.7 scholarships. What I think needs to be done is for the NCAA to kick in more scholarships in general. And (the state of) Mississippi needs to find a way to get a Hope (program).

"Don't punish the kids from all those other states because Mississippi or Alabama doesn't have it. Getting rid of it would only punish the kid from Georgia who is a good student."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher/owner of Gene's Page, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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