The NCAA Division I Council on Friday voted against a proposal that would have allowed college baseball and softball programs to pay a third assistant coach, drawing ire from those who believed it would have improved the sports.
The legislation, presented by the Southeastern Conference, asked for the ability to pay three full-time assistant coaches. Under NCAA rules, college baseball and softball programs can only pay two assistants, forcing head coaches to make difficult decisions about the structure of their staffs.
The council, which consists mostly of athletic directors, met Friday morning to vote. Around noon, the NCAA said the council had “defeated a proposal to add an additional countable assistant coach in baseball and softball.”
“Wow...just wow,” Arizona State head coach Tracy Smith wrote on Twitter. “Well, at least now you afford another admin position now. What a joke.”
The new rule would have allowed schools the choice of paying a third coach in either sport. It did not require it, however.
“If schools want to occur the expense of a third paid assistant, let them do it,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said in a phone interview. “Let's grow the game. Let's make college baseball better. Let's be better to the kids and give them more coaching and more attention.”
Who's starting, how to watch and what to watch for when LSU continues its series against Florida.
Over the course of his 37-year coaching career, Mainieri has watched the simultaneous growth and constriction of college baseball. The sport has become a source of revenue for a few universities — baseball made LSU a profit of $345,536 last year — but NCAA rules have decreased available scholarships and reduced numbers on coaches.
For the 35 players on the roster, LSU can give 11.7 scholarships. It used to have 25, Mainieri said.
College baseball teams are also limited on the number of coaches who can recruit. The volunteer — the NCAA only allows one — cannot recruit.
LSU used to designate either its hitting coach or pitching coach as the recruiting coordinator. So in 2007, when LSU played its first SEC series at South Carolina, the Tigers' pitching coach was on the other side of the country, recruiting in California.
A couple of years ago, Mainieri changed this structure. He made one full-time assistant a recruiting coordinator, Nolan Cain, who also coaches third base. The other assistant is pitching coach Alan Dunn.
LSU began its series with Florida with a 16-9 loss on Thursday at Alex Box Stadium.
“It's so difficult to decide how to do it,” Mainieri said, “without having to sacrifice on the recruiting end or sacrifice on coaching your current players.”
For a hitting coach, the Tigers have used an unpaid volunteer, which has limited the candidates. Sean Ochinko, a former LSU catcher and first baseman, has filled the role the past two seasons.
Ochinko has attended every practice and every game, reviewed video and worked with players, but he cannot make money or receive insurance benefits through his role on the team because he’s a volunteer.
During games, Ochinko stays in the dugout so he can talk to players between at-bats. If LSU does not have an undergraduate assistant to coach first base, Mainieri said either Ochinko or another player fills that role.
“We're just so understaffed,” Mainieri said. “It's ridiculous.”
Daniel Cabrera missed two weeks because of an injury. He's back in the middle of LSU's batting order.
The SEC voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, Mainieri said. D1baseball.com reported the Southland Conference also was in support, but that two of the Power 5 conferences, the Big Ten and Big 12, voted against.
After the council released its decision, some people who supported the legislation expressed their feelings on public, social media platforms.
“This absolutely stinks!” Georgia baseball coach Scott Stricklin said. “It’s hard to believe how two Power 5 conferences can be against this!! This is a big blow to our sport.”
Former LSU All-American Alex Bregman added: “Sad”
The proposal may return in the future. Smith said he thinks people will try again. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a tweet the idea “merits more meaningful debate.”
“The SEC will continue to advocate for this change,” Sankey wrote, “which is timely and appropriate.”
But at least for now, college baseball and softball coaches must continue their jobs under rules that limit the size of the coaching staffs and the number of people who can recruit.
“People don't care enough about the sport,” Mainieri said. “The chances of us increasing scholarships, it won't happen in my lifetime. We tried and tried and tried. No progress at all. This was one thing we thought maybe we had a shot of getting to enhance the sport some. But it crashed. Crashed and burned.”