There are no sports for them to watch or coach at the moment, but there will be something a lot of University of Hawaii coaches have a rooting interest in when the NCAA’s Division I Council takes action Monday.
While there is wide agreement that at least some college athletes who had their seasons truncated by COVID-19 closures deserve to have some eligibility restored, a consensus of how to best accomplish what the NCAA calls “eligibility relief” is harder to find and littered with land mines.
“College baseball coaches are used to some of this, where we have manipulation of our roster, but with all the other issues it is 10-fold this year,” said UH baseball coach Mike Trapasso.
For example, do you just limit “eligibility relief” to the spring sports (baseball, softball, beach and men’s volleyball, golf, tennis etc.), which were the most heavily impacted playing a half — or less — of their schedules?
Or, do you also open it up to the winter sports, such as women’s and men’s basketball, in which some schools did not have conference tournaments and there was no NCAA Tournament?
Moreover, do you grant an extra year of eligibility only to seniors, who did not have closure to the final year, or to everyone on the roster?
And, with whatever you do, is there an expansion of scholarship limits to accommodate the seniors who decide to stay and incoming recruits the schools are already pledged to for 2020-21?
But the elephant in the room is, as UH softball coach Bob Coolen says, “Where is the money going to come from?”
“That’s the big question,” said Coolen, who figures it would cost “upwards of $40,000” to come up with scholarships just for his two seniors, Callee Heen and Angelique Ramos.
UH athletic director David Matlin said, “Our incremental costs would be approximately $615,000 for spring semester sports. That does not include incremental costs associated with having additional athletes (i.e. food, gear, academic support etc.).”
USA Today estimated the well-heeled Power-5 conference schools would be out $500,000-$900,00 each just for spring sports seniors.
The added expenses come as revenues are taking a bigger hit by the day due to COVID-19 fallout. Last week the NCAA notified its members that they will get greatly reduced checks this year because its biggest money-maker, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, was canceled.
For the last fiscal year UH received $1.3 million in NCAA distributions.
While schools might end up being permitted to bring back players, they would not be required to, leaving those without the resources to have to turn somebody away. “The NCAA can be the nice guy and say, ‘We’ll give everybody a year back,’ and make the individual institutions be the bad guy by having to say, ‘Where is the money going to come from?’” Trapasso said.
For baseball coaches in particular the dilemma is multi-faceted and perplexing. On top of NCAA issues there is the MLB draft, which is being pushed back to late July and likely reduced to five or 10 rounds instead of 40 rounds due to a lack of time to follow and study prospective draftees due to COVID-19 shutdowns.
At UH, that means instead of six to eight players being drafted and, maybe, half or more leaving for the pros, more eligible players could return to school. Combined with the 12 recruits who signed letters of intent in November, the Rainbow Warriors could end up with as many as 45 players.
“Up to a month before our school starts we may not know what players are coming back,” Trapasso said. “It is a perfect storm.”
And, now, the NCAA scrambles to avoid an imperfect solution.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.