Are the NCAA and MLB Draft Systems Pushing Top Athletes Away from Baseball?

Doug MeadCorrespondent IMay 8, 2012

Are the NCAA and MLB Draft Systems Pushing Top Athletes Away from Baseball?

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    Last year, the MLB draft featured a terrific assortment of high school and college players who have prepared for years just for the chance to be selected for the opportunity to live out their dreams and make their mark on the sport of baseball.

    However, with the new rules in place for both MLB and college baseball, are the best players being turned away?

    CBSSports.com blogger Bryan Fischer recently reported that the NCAA and MLB have been conducting ongoing discussions in order to broaden their relationship and attract more players to the college level.

    The discussions have included several different possibilities, including increasing the number of scholarships given to schools for baseball and other measures that would align various events to better serve both the NCAA and MLB.

    In 1991, the NCAA voted to reduce the number of scholarships given to its institutions for baseball, from 13 to 11.7, a 10 percent reduction.

    Many of the NCAA's institutions aren't even able to offer that many scholarships due to budgetary constraints, and there is a huge disparity in the amount of scholarships offered by colleges for football and baseball. NCAA schools have the ability to offer up to 85 scholarships for football.

    The NCAA and MLB are continuing their talks, and the end result of those discussions will be presented to the NCAA board in August.

    If MLB and the NCAA are both serious in attracting the best talent to the sport of baseball, here are some ideas that should be strongly considered.

1. Increase NCAA Baseball Scholarships to 15 Per School

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    I am certainly not naive enough to dismiss the fact that NCAA institutions derive the largest percentage of revenue from their football programs. However, baseball programs for many schools have suffered due to the NCAA's reduction in baseball scholarships implemented in 1991.

    Increasing the number of scholarships to 15 from its current 11.7 will go a long way in attracting better talent.

    Dave Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, told Aaron Fitt of Baseball America that increasing the number of scholarships would go a long way toward that goal.

    Keilitz said that just getting back to the original 13 scholarships would be a "huge victory."

    "Personally, I'm hopeful it's more ambitious than that," Keilitz added.

2. Move the Annual MLB Draft to Early July

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    Currently, the MLB draft is conducted in early June, at a time when NCAA college baseball is just starting their regional playoffs leading up to the College World Series.

    Moving the MLB draft to early July would be a much better alignment for both MLB and the NCAA. For one, it allows college players to concentrate solely on their team's effort to win rather than being distracted by the draft process in the middle of their season.

    Second, it's a natural progression for both the NCAA and MLB. A broader partnership between the two could be very beneficial in promoting interest for the College World Series, where draft selection for players could actually hinge on their team's success during the playoffs and the role they played in advancing their teams.

    For MLB, it makes sense from a marketing viewpoint—if teams are watching specific players in the College World Series, it generates more interest overall.

    MLB is the only major professional sport to conduct its draft in the middle of a college season. It's time to change that.

3. MLB Should Insist on Better National TV Coverage of NCAA Baseball

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    In the past, ESPN has done an outstanding job in its coverage of NCAA college baseball, specifically the NCAA regional playoffs and College World Series. MLB Network has also done its part more recently to provide better coverage as well.

    However, there is essentially zero coverage of college baseball on the national networks. If MLB is serious about expanding its relationship with NCAA college baseball, they should be insisting that its broadcasting partners, such as FOX, TBS and whoever else enters the picture in future televising rights negotiations, to expand coverage of college baseball.

    Why not have a college game of the week on FOX? Can't TBS do the same, rather than some old re-run of a movie or some other whitewashed programming on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon?

4. Insist on the Use of Wood Bats in NCAA

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    I have never quite understood the use of aluminum bats in college baseball. If the idea is to groom players for advancement into professional baseball, why would they use bats that aren't even used at that level?

    Even the Cape Cod League uses wood bats.

    The NCAA should absolutely go back to using wood bats. If its players are to advance to higher levels, they should be using the same exact equipment used at the higher levels.

5. MLB and NCAA Should Increase Involvement in Summer Leagues and Programs

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    Many college baseball players continue playing in the summer in established leagues. Currently, MLB does an excellent job in promoting baseball through their RBI program and MLB Urban Youth Academies.

    However, leagues such as the Cape Cod League could be enhanced by more involvement from MLB and the NCAA. Both organizations could form a partnership in sending team and college instructors to these established leagues.

    MLB's involvement in these leagues would go a long way in helping to better promote the game.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.