Vitello still seeking more information for management of extra eligibility
The college baseball world finally has some answers to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing canceled season. Monday, the NCAA Division I council ruled to grant an extra year of eligibility to all spring sport athletes.
“To say that seniors shouldn’t get their year of eligibility would be cruel hearted and maybe even some other things,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “If I’m a parent I’m going to defend my son who’s a freshman. How can you say the senior’s year of eligibility is more valuable than my son’s, it’s one year regardless? I don’t think there was any way around doing it for all if you were going to do it for the seniors and doing it for the seniors is the fair thing.”
Despite the NCAA’s ruling there’s still plenty of unknowns. The council clarified that fifth-year seniors wouldn’t count against your 11.7 scholarships, and that they could receive up to the amount of the scholarship they received the year before.
However, that was about as much clarity as the NCAA provided, leaving additional questions unanswered.
“I don’t even have a complete understanding of things,” Vitello admitted. “The seniors will almost be quote unquote ghost to scholarship/roster rules, but they’ll still be able to play so by no means are they ghost, but that’s the best term I’ve come up with to date.
“How the rest of it plays out, what about scholarship limits, roster limits and then the scholarship roster limits because you’re only supposed to have 27 guys on scholarship. All of that is still in limbo. I think the NCAA word that we got the other day was all spring sports. Now we’re going to get into what about outdoor track, what about baseball. It’s going to get a little bit more specific.”
One thing is perfectly clear, with the eligibility relief and the shortened, five round, MLB Draft there’s going to be an abundance of players returning to college campuses in the fall then coaches expected when they were signing their 2020 class.
Vitello estimates that it will lead to five to 15 more players planning on coming to campus then they expected. While that creates a roster crunch and a potential transfer market it also leads to more veteran teams across the country for the 2021 season.
“What’s probably going to happen to us is we’re going to next year be as old or as experienced or as upperclassmen based, however you want to term it, as you can possibly be,” Vitello said. “But the following year our school, and probably every school in the country, is going to deal with more turnover than they’ve ever dealt with. It has a multi-year impact, this whole situation.”
In recruiting, unsigned kids face the biggest disadvantage, but even signed players will face an even greater uphill battle then expected to find playing time.
However, these recruits remain immensely important to programs, not for the immediate short term, but for the upcoming turnover Vitello anticipates.
“I think it’ll probably cut off a lot of the spring and summer recruiting,” Vitello said. “We signed Garrett Crochet in the summer. There’s really some good players and some kids who worked hard because they didn’t have a home and they worked their butt off to make sure they do have a home. I think all of that’s going to be curtailed because everyone at this point in a power five is probably cutting back and looking to figure out who the guys that don’t get pinched out are due to the circumstances.”
“In our circumstance, we did sign a decent sized class. We don’t want to see any of those guys not show up on campus here whether that’s because of the draft or of the extra competition that will be on the field for the very reason I said earlier. Those guys are the future of the program now so more than ever because we’re going to have a double whammy at the end of next spring with draft and graduation. … We could lose upwards of 20 players from next year’s roster.”
Tennessee had just three seniors on its 2020 roster so signees likely won’t be intimidated by the added extra competition. Nevertheless, Vitello feels good about where his program is and how it was constructed as it faces this time of complexity and instability.
“If you look at our roster in particular the easiest thing to comment is all good things are in moderation,” Vitello said. “We kind of dumbed our way or have strategically found ourselves in a situation where we have good balance. … There’s some good balance and I think that will continue even with the dramatic turnover in the future, but for the current year that balance, I don’t see how it doesn’t work to our favor to some extent. It certainly makes our waters a little less turbulent.”