Tanner Takes on New NCAA Rules (Again)

On the eve of the 2009 baseball season, less than 24 hours before Carolina was to open its new $35 million ballpark, Gamecocks baseball coach Ray Tanner met with the media to discuss the upcoming season. The otherwise non-descript event took an unexpected turn when Tanner blasted the NCAA for the scholarship and roster restrictions it places on collegiate baseball programs.

South Carolina had 40 players on its baseball roster throughout the fall. That had to be trimmed to 35 on Friday, before the season begins. Freshman infielder Will Callaway, sophomore pitcher Alex Burrell, junior transfers Graham Couch (outfield) and Curtis Murphy (third base), and senior pitcher Patrick Sullivan were the unlucky five. They will be allowed to use team facilities, but cannot practice or lift weights with the team. Tanner wanted to redshirt Burrell anyway, so leaving him off the roster made sense, and Burrell will return to the team next season. The other decisions were more complicated.

"I didn't make the final two decisions until this morning," Tanner said on Friday afternoon. The final roster spot came down to Couch and junior walk-on pitcher Jordan Probst, who had not played baseball since high school.

"I'm really disappointed with the NCAA from that standpoint," Tanner said. "You've got some young people that work their rear ends off, that are great students. You can only play nine, that's the rule, so if you've got a couple extra guys that are working their tails off to try to eventually get an opportunity to play, I don't know why have to take them out of a uniform."

Making matters so frustrating for Tanner, pitcher Craig Thomas is on the roster. Thomas will miss the entire season following surgery, and will not return to the team next season. Thomas will be attending dental school instead. However, because Thomas was on scholarship on the first day of classes last August, he is required to be on the active roster.

"Welcome to the world of the NCAA," Tanner smiled grimly. "To talk about the betterment of the student athlete, it's hard for me to understand."

"You'd think that if you had a guy that was going to be out for the year, if you had a walk-on you could replace him… It's too logical."

When a reporter noted that the NCAA allows football teams to use walk-ons as replacements, Tanner sighed.

"We need better representation."

"You get a guy like Jordan Probst who walks on to your campus and comes out and does what he does, he came out of nowhere and he's on the roster" squeezing out another player when he is really replacing the injured Thomas, Tanner complained.

The matter is only going to get worse next season, when the NCAA places tighter restrictions on how scholarships are handed out. Baseball teams are allowed to give out 11.7 total scholarships. Teams give out partial scholarships to players any way they want, as long as there are only 35 players on the active roster. Starting next season, the NCAA will limit partial scholarships to 24% of a full scholarship, and teams will be required to consist of 28 scholarship players and 7 walk-ons.

"A lot of times they hide behind the APR, [saying] that these rules are necessary, but I'm not able to combine the two. It's unfortunate," said Tanner. "If they're going to give us 11.7 scholarships, […] you get 35 guys on your roster, I think we're okay. If you can get 35 on 11.7, that's fine. If you can get 30 plus 5, 25 plus ten, well we were okay with that but they wouldn't let us do it. Next year it goes to 28 plus 7. It's hard to really understand that, isn't it?"

"They're making it really difficult. It's not the coaches that suffer; it's the student athletes that get the short end of the stick."

After the press conference ended, as Tanner left the podium, he turned to baseball spokesperson Andrew Kitick and chuckled.

"So I got in trouble about the NCAA, didn't I?"

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories