With the NCAA Division I baseball scholarship changes coming into full effect during the 2009-10 academic year, walk-ons will take on more important roles on baseball rosters.
Each Division I institution will be limited to 27 counters (athletes receiving an athletic scholarship) among their roster limit of 35 players, with the other 8 spots being occupied by walk-ons who will receive no athletic scholarship.
Division I rosters of no more than 35 players must be established the day prior to the first contest in February. Coaches can have more than 35 players during the Fall and January practice periods, but must be at no more than 35 before the start of the season.
Walk-ons who are on teams that have more than 35 players participating in fall practice sessions must be aware that they are at increased risk of being cut from the team. Once a player is cut from the team, he will not be able to use the athletic facilities to work out and will have no practice opportunities with the team.
A student-athlete who is receiving an athletic scholarship must be included in the counter limit of 27, and the total roster size of 35, even if they are injured and unable to play. So a walk-on who has been performing well during practice sessions must be aware that they may be cut from the team to make room for an injured player receiving a scholarship because the injured player must be counted among the 27 and 35.
Juniors at Division I programs who choose to return to school for their senior year may be asked to return as a walk-on as their scholarship was probably already “given away” in the recruitment of an incoming freshman. This has already been the case for a number of years, but may become more common as the opportunity for coaches to give 5% or 10% scholarships to late signees is only available in rare situations.
Some baseball programs have established their own set of “rules” for distributing scholarships. Some let recruits know up front that their scholarship will decline each year after their freshman year, while others may inform the players after their enrollment that there will not be a baseball scholarship for their senior year if they return.
Players and parents should be asking about the effect of the new financial aid rules on their baseball scholarship so they will know well in advance.
For those who are walk-ons, especially at programs that have more than 35 players participating in Fall drills, it will be extremely important to assess your chances of making the 35-man roster that will be in effect for the season.
For those who choose to transfer, it is quite possible that a fresh start at an NCAA Division II or NAIA program may result in increased opportunities for financial aid, for playing time, and for a better opportunity to be drafted due to the increased playing time.
For more information from the parent of a college baseball player who is also an expert with over 20 years experience in NCAA rules regarding recruiting, eligibility, financial aid, and transfer issues, go to www.informedathlete.com and register for our free newsletter, or contact Rick Allen at 913-766-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.