Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Cleveland: The Home of the College Baseball World Series

This is written from the College World Series where a packed house of more than 22,000 fans pays to watch each game at sparkling TD Ameritrade Park.

ESPN pays big bucks to televise every game. Souvenir stands are open all over this city, busily selling T-shirts and caps for $25 each and up. The ballpark concession stands are busy, and concessions aren’t cheap, either.

The tournament’s 12-day run has an economic impact of more than $70 million for Omaha and surrounding communities. Motels and hotels are jammed at jacked-up prices. Restaurants and taverns are doing bang-up business.

This is written a week after standing room only crowds watched both Mississippi State and Ole Miss play in NCAA Super Regionals, also televised by ESPN. This is written two weeks after Ole Miss, State and Southern Miss all played in NCAA Regional Tournaments in packed ballparks, all replete with high-priced, much-in-demand luxury suites.

And you can see where this is headed. College baseball has become big business. Everybody’s making money except the players, most of whom don’t even get anywhere near full tuition at the respective universities.

I know what some of you thinking. You’ve read me write about this before. I hope so. You’ll probably read me write about it again – at least once per year until the NCAA does something about the ridiculous rule that limits Division I college baseball programs to 11.7 scholarships that are shared by a maximum of 27 players on a 35-man roster.

Do the math. Not even 12 full scholarships are shared by 27 players who at least get something. Eight others get nothing.

It is the biggest injustice in all of college sports. It may have made sense 40 years ago when college baseball often was played in humble ballparks, before slim crowds that paid little or no admission. TV? The College World Series championship game was on TV and that was it.

But that was then and this is now, and this is not even close to fair.

The third string offensive guard and second team nickel back on your favorite college football team more than likely receive full scholarships, while your star center fielder might get as little as 20 percent of his tuition, books, room and board.

It makes no sense. Playing college baseball has become a full-time job. You play 54 college games every spring and that’s before the playoffs. Then, you go play in a summer league somewhere. Then you return to school for fall practice sessions. What’s more, you lift weights and run year-round. There is no time to hold a part-time job to help pay the college bills.

College football which requires 11 players on the field at a time, gets 85 scholarships. College basketball, which requires five players on the court at a time, gets 13 scholarships. There are 10 players, counting the DH, in a baseball lineup. Again, do the math.

Lacrosse teams are allowed 12.6 scholarships. Ice hockey teams get 18 scholarships. Women’s equestrian gets 15, and somebody has to pay for the horses. Women’s rugby gets 12. Softball gets 12. Wrestling gets 9.9.

Baseball – considering how big it has become – gets screwed.

They’ll keep playing high-quality baseball here in Omaha until next Tuesday or Wednesday. The crowds will keep on coming. ESPN will keep televising. Cash registers will keep ringing.

Except for the players.

Keep all this in mind each time you watch.

Email syndicated columnist Rick Cleveland at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

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