Matt Clements/Inside Carolina

This Week in UNC Baseball with Mike Fox

The Diamond Heels (37-9, 19-5 ACC) won their only game last week amid final exams and now prepare to face Davidson and UNC-Asheville this week before departing for a series at Virginia Tech. Coming off a limited slate, Inside Carolina polled head coach Mike Fox on the state of college baseball.

The Tar Heels won their only game during the final exam break in walk-off fashion against Richmond. How difficult are the games during exams mentally for the players?
“You know that game is always a challenge, especially coming off of such an emotional weekend. The kids have had two days of finals. We have had good and bad ones during that [finals] week. We were able to get a win. It was not pretty - a good win is a win. We were able to get some guys out there throwing and I thought that [Tyler] Baum gave us a good start. So we did just enough but we got a win which is the most important thing.”

In 2009 the NCAA changed the makeup of how college programs could distribute scholarships to student-athletes in baseball with a minimum percentage of 25 percent while capping the roster to 35 student-athletes, ostensibly to increase academic scores and decrease transfers. Since that time what are some of the unintended consequences of that decision that you have observed as the head of a major Division I program?
“You don’t have enough space. Has it been since '09? For me one of the biggest unintended consequences is that [the NCAA] does not live up to their mantra of 'we provide opportunities.' When you cap a roster and you put numbers and restrict because of numbers you do not provide opportunities - of course this is coming from a former walk on. So, somewhere along the line one person or more decided that college baseball was broken academically and I think that was entirely a wrong premise to do all of this changing. This would take a whole other article about what this has done. It has hurt a lot of kids and made coaches have to make just awful decisions just because of numbers. It is one of the most unfair regulations in the NCAA manual - all of those you just mentioned.”

This year the ACC Tournament has been changed to 12 teams in four pools, with each team getting to play two games before proceeding to a four-team, single elimination round. In your opinion is this the best format for the ACC Tournament considering that the NCAA post-season starts less than a week later? Should there even be an ACC Tournament without all 16 teams fielding a team?
“Well, first of all, I will have to read about the format because I think I voted for it but even I am unsure about how it works, because I just have not payed that much attention to it to be perfectly honest with you. You know the tournament is what it is. There are different opinions on: Should we have it? Why do we have it? How many teams should be in it? What is the format it should be? All you have to do is look at the last - what - 10-year history of it and the question is answered, because nobody can figure it out because we keep changing. So my opinion does not really matter as the ACC is going to continue with the tournament so you just do it.”

In 2012 Major League Baseball moved the signing deadline to July 15 after the Rule 4 entry draft. Did this change have any positive effect on college baseball in your opinion based on the way the deadline worked before?
“You know it really didn’t. The date was somewhat irrelevant because if it is July 15th after being - what - August 15th? The month does not matter to us. Probably does not matter to any college baseball program. Because you cannot recover. Thirty days does not matter, because you cannot find another player in those 30 days. Admissions offices are closed and it is what it is. I think most teams just like us and our staff, we know way before July 15th whether a young man is going to sign or not. You pretty much know the day of the draft, quite honestly. Maybe a small step in the right direction but has really not made much of an impact.”

What opportunities does the Diamond Heels program have for students who are interested in sports management, writing, media relations and other volunteer opportunities?
“They are probably endless. We get emails all the time from students and even incoming students wanting to be part of our program in some way. Marketing, promotions. I know Michael Beale has had some. Just to help with game day operations, helping in the press box, helping the control room. We have managers down every day doing a variety of tasks. When you do that you see the time, you see the work ethic, you see the discipline getting (to be) around some really smart people - administrators that have been successful. You can’t help but learn. We have some unbelievable students work in our program in a variety of ways. We have four student managers who put in more time than our players - you cannot underestimate the importance of that.”

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