Ron Polk's Concerned for College Baseball

During a Wednesday (October 3rd) afternoon interview, Ron Polk spoke about his letter, the reasons he wrote it, the results he's seen since he's sent the letter out, and whether it will ultimately get the desired results.

Why are you the one who has taken this project on? Why not leave it to someone else?
"That's a good question. Nobody else would (do it). Whenever something comes up other coaches call me and ask what are we going to do? For some reason, when someone has to be a pest to the NCAA it has to be Ron Polk. That's what I am. I don't like it, I don't want it, I didn't ask for it, but somebody has to stand up for college baseball. And I'm tired of fighting the NCAA. But if I hadn't done it, there wouldn't be an override right now. There were seven override votes before I sent out the letter. [30 votes are needed for an override. "Aaccording to the MSU compliance office, there were 51 total override votes as of 2 o'clock CT. The deadline to vote for an override was Monday, 5 pm ET, October 8th. I've heard since then from Coach Polk that there may have been a final count of 56 override votes cast.-Gene]

"People don't understand how tough it is to get an override because you have to get the presidents to do it. How many baseball coaches can walk into a president's office? So, I had to send out to the presidents, athletic directors and baseball coaches the letter. I sent a five-page cover letter to the coaches telling step-by-step how to get an override.

"Of course I knew about the punishment that was coming to our kids, coaches and programs. And that's what we call it - punishment. No one else has come up with another word for it. Now, we have seven sanctions that college baseball has that no other sport has. Three of them are already in and the fourth one, the roster and scholarship caps and the 25% scholarship rule, is the one we are trying to get an override on.

"In are 1) the (one-year) transfer rule (where a kid has to sit for one year if he transfers to another Division-I school that plays baseball), 2) our kids have to be eligible one semester prior to the semester of competition, and 3) more stricter penalties if baseball's APR goes below a certain number.

"And no one on the president's board of directors had information as to why the APR for baseball was so close to football and basketball. If football had the same rules as we have, which means they could transfer anytime they wanted to without sitting out a year, weren't forced to go to summer school or had to pay their way to go to summer school, do you think their APR would be very high? Basketball is the same way. But baseball was still hanging with them despite having that transfer rule and having to pay our way to go to summer school. And having to deal with a pro baseball draft that has 50 rounds in it compared to 8 rounds in the football draft and 2 rounds for basketball.

"The NCAA keeps talking about not liking sport-specific legislation and wanting to keep the playing field level for all sports. But they have it here. They have more sanctions against baseball than any other sport."

What happens once 5 o'clock has come and gone?
"There are 18 people on the NCAA Board of Directors - all of whom are college presidents - along with (NCAA executive director) Miles Brand. They are the power, and three of those president's schools don't even play baseball. They are the ones who decide if we get an override what we are going to do with it. And two of those 18 have now voted to override what they previously voted in.

"The NCAA Board of Directors - whose president is Jim Barker, the former Dean of Architect (at Mississippi State) - has the following options at its November 1st meeting.

  • "The first option is to accept the override. in which case the legislation will be rescinded. In other words they buy into it, but that's not going to happen.
  • "Two, take no additional action and permit the Division-I delegates to vote at the 2008 convention in Nashville. In other words, a 5/8's vote has to ok our override. [5/8's of 284 schools.-Gene] That's not good because we don't have any leaders to stand up at the microphone and defend us at the convention.
  • "Three, revise the proposal again which would subject the legislation to a third override by at least 30 institutions that would delay final resolution of the issue until the 2009 convention.

    "The first option of probably pie in the sky, so the third option is our best chance. If that happens, then all of a sudden it stops for another year. Then let baseball's APR dramatically rise. That would happen for two reasons - one, kids aren't transferring any more because they have to sit out a year, and, two, kids are now going to summer school. [It appears the main reason for the rules being added was due to college baseball's overall APR scores.-Gene]"

    Explain the third option in a little more detail. I'm not 100% sure what it means.
    "Let's say they have 42 overrides and decide to tweak (the rules) a little. Right now, 35 can be on your roster and 30 can be on scholarship the first year. Next year it goes to 27 on scholarship. Let's say they tweak the 27 to 30. Just by tweaking it, that changes the legislation and everybody has to review it for a year. That delays it for another year."

    Are you optimistic?
    "I'm optimistic that we have educated the uneducated. When I say that, I mean, as an example, if I'm in a chemistry class I'm being educated. That's all I'm referring to when I use that phrase. So, I'm optimistic that something has finally been put down in writing to show the NCAA if you would simply allow people to give you information maybe you will change your mind. I know I'm getting through to some people because I'm constantly getting word back. Faculty reps are saying they didn't know that. Everybody that I talked to have told me that they didn't know that. They wonder how can the NCAA do that, how can they do that to baseball?"

    Obviously, this has been a huge undertaking. Has anybody helped you with this project?
    "There are 16 coaches making calls to universities, including me. They are giving schools grades based on our chance for an override from that school."

    Who are those other 15 coaches?
    "Tim Corbin of Vanderbilt, Larry Hays of Texas Tech, Brian Shoop (UAB), Steve Smith of Baylor, Jack Leggett of Clemson, Mark Johnson of Sam Houston State, Mark Martin of Florida State, Rodney Hennon of Georgia Southern, Daron Schoenrock of Memphis, Jim Case of Jacksonville State, Tim Jamieson of Missouri, Ray Tanner of South Carolina, Mike Fox of North Carolina, Rick Jones of Tulane and Brian O'Connor of Virginia."

    What kind of responses are the coaches receiving from the schools they are calling?
    "They are talking to a lot of schools but some of the schools won't call back. The Ivy League doesn't give scholarships, so you can forget them. The Big Ten (Conference) is a block vote. And we've found out that some people in the NCAA have been calling some of the conference commissioners telling them to put the word out that they don't want this override to pass. The NCAA doesn't want this to happen. They don't want to deal with this any more."

    What kind of personal responses have you received about the letter?
    "Great! I've had over 100 emails (via his secretary) from coaches and parents of kids throughout the country. They email a thank you for writing the letter. I would have 25 to 30 times more than that, but I don't have (a personal) email (address). They find April's (the baseball secretary) email address. And I have constant calls, some from coaches. I'm hearing from faculty reps across the country that are really concerned. They are the student-athletes' voice. It's what keeps me going."

    Have you had any negative feedback?
    "Of the 1,421 letters that I sent out, only one person has made a negative comment, but he didn't say what I was wrote was inaccurate. Now, whether they agree with me, that's another story. If they are the (NCAA) Baseball Enhancement Group, (I believe) they agree with me, but they can't say it because they are the ones who are punishing us. They were told by Miles Brand to punish those kids and coaches for bad APR. But they didn't give it time, they rushed to judgement.

    If they hadn't rushed to judgement, what do you think would have happened as far as the APR is concerned?
    "These coaches who were bringing in kids left and right and hurting our APR, the APR will stop that a little bit because those coaches will be penalized if you give it time."

    Due to the time the project is taking, do you feel you are hurting your own program?
    "I asked our coaches and our players if I have taken away from our practices. I even presented it to the parents. That's why I have to work even longer hours. Normally, my daily schedule this time of year is to get out of the office by midnight. Now, sometimes I don't get out until 1:30 to 2:30 in the morning. And I get here about 15 minutes before 8."

    What happens if you don't get the rules rescinded?
    "Kids in baseball are hurt. If we don't get it changed, then I will have to start dumping kids left and right. Kids that want to be here won't be able to come here. Our future walk-on program will be over. And the small scholarship kids won't be around any longer either. Plus, the guys who have injuries will be told to leave because you can't chance it. That will happen all across the country.

    "And now, for the first time, presidents and athletic directors will start receiving nasty letters from parents about the mean baseball coaches. The coaches will all of sudden be on the bubble. Presidents will think 'I'm gotten four letters the last three months about this coach. So, I think we will go ahead and make that decision about him'.

    "The bottom line is this is not a student-welfare or coach-welfare isssue."


    Click here to go to Coach Polk's letter.


    Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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