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NCAA Division I Council Passes Major Aid Legislation

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The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday passed legislation that allows partial scholarship sports such as baseball to use need-based and merit-based awards and scholarships for student athletes without counting against a team’s scholarship limit. The legislation goes into effect August 1 and will be finalized at a July 27 meeting with the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

“The 30,000 foot answer is that anytime we get extra money for student athletes in any sport, and especially baseball, we’re elated with that,” American Baseball Coaches Association Executive Director Craig Keilitz said. “Everyone has their good and bad at their school. You might be at a state school and not have quite as much to benefit you from this, but your tuition and fees are less. You might be at a private school who can benefit more from this, but your tuition and fees are much higher.

“In general, I think this is very good for the athlete,” he continued. “Especially, now, where every dollar counts for student athletes. I think this is a good piece of legislation that helps out every sport not named football or basketball.”

The vote followed a recommendation by the Student-Athlete Experience Committee as part of its review of financial aid rules. The legislation, which is permanent, originally was part of of the 2019-20 legislative cycle, but was tabled in April due to the ongoing pandemic.

“This is great for college baseball,” a prominent private school Power Five head coach said. “Anything that allows families of our players to receive more aid in a sport that is so drastically underfunded is a good thing. It will be interesting to watch how individual institutions and programs address this moving forward.”

How this affects various programs around the country is to be determined, but it’s believed to be more advantageous for private institutions.

One of the more prominent programs mentioned when we broke the news about the vote was Vanderbilt. Some in college baseball immediately believed that this legislation would hurt the Commodores and boost other public and private institutions. The latter certainly will be true depending on how schools deliver need-based and academic aid. However, this legislation, if passed, also would give Vandy a boost. For instance, if the Commodores had a player on substantial need-based or other merit-based aid in the past, they could not also dip into the baseball program’s 11.7 Now, if this legislation passes, the Commodores would have the ability to bolster a recruit’s scholarship package by stacking the need-based/merit aid and athletic scholarship.

“This would certainly help a school like Vanderbilt and other private schools in some ways,” a coach said. “But, now you couldn’t use the inability to stack as an excuse not to give a player more money. Let’s say it costs 70K to go to a school and the kid only qualifies for 50K in need-based or merit aid, the player would now know that, indeed, you can stack that aid. So, they might turn around and say, give me 20K in athletic aid to make up for the difference.”

The legislation could have a profound impact on programs part of public institutions as well. A prime example would be the University of Texas. In 2018, the institution allowed need-based financial aid packages for families making up to $30K and $100K, and the compensation ranges were anywhere from $300 to $11K — with full tuition ensured at the high-end figure. That was a great program for regular students. But for student-athletes in partial scholarship sports? That money could not be stacked with athletic aid, so it was an either/or situation. Now, if passed, UT would have the ability to take the money from this assistance program and add it to athletic aid, further bolstering an already-attractive package.

UT is just one of many institutions that has installed these types of programs over the past few years. In the end, this legislation would help plenty of public institutions, but is believed to likely have an even larger, more positive impact on private institutions.

“This is more advantageous for the larger, more expensive private schools,” a public school Power Five coach said. “It certainly helps us with some guys, but it also helps plenty of other programs more than ours, thus is creates another disadvantage against those schools.

“If I’m at a private school and I have a lot of need-based aid, then I have a ton of players qualify for it, I can use less athletic money,” he continued. “It truly increases my scholarship amount. It’ll never be equal. It’s apples to oranges in many cases.”

The Council also made some additional recommendations on the matter. The group asked the Student-Athlete Experience Committee to do a comprehensive review of the financial aid rules, counter rules for every sport, average equivalencies for every sport and roster management. More positives could come for college baseball after that comprehensive review is completed.

The sport took a step forward with Wednesday’s vote. Yes, private institutions will benefit more than public schools because they have more need-based/merit based programs, but public institutions and programs also will also be of benefit. Miami and Tulane are two programs that were specifically mentioned to me as huge beneficiaries from this ruling. Plus, this legislation will create more opportunities to play college baseball, which should be the primary goal of coaches and others in the industry.

All in all, it was a good day.

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