East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin is planning on three seniors — pitchers Tyler Smith, Matt Bridges and Cam Colmore — to be seniors again next year, pending an NCAA ruling that would allow seniors, at least in spring sports, to be eligible for one more season.
Many questions branch from there about what might happen to college baseball rosters after this year’s campaign abruptly ended a few weeks ago because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
What will be the impact of a condensed Major League Baseball draft? Will all spring sports underclassman student-athletes retain their current status as a freshman, sophomore or junior? Will the NCAA change roster sizes or scholarship rules?
Regardless of what happens, Godwin and other coaches are ready to react.
“There’s not another sport in college athletics, in my opinion, that has to deal with the draft out of high school and the draft after their junior year or when they became 21 (years old), because we’ve had guys in our program who became sophomores and are draft eligible,” Godwin said during a phone interview Wednesday. “The dynamics of that, with 11.7 (annual) scholarships, only 27 guys can be on scholarship and they all have to be on at least 25 percent scholarship if they get scholarship (money). Your roster size has to be 35. Nobody else has to deal with that many dynamics of roster management.”
Roster management will be a key phrase for the NCAA and its upcoming discussions and decisions about eligibility.
Recruiting also is tied to roster management. Godwin has been contacted by recruits who have asked him about their status or potential playing time, but the Pirates’ sixth-year coach is in wait-and-see mode, at least for right now.
“As of today, nothing has changed,” he said. “Nobody has given us any definitive answers on what we are going to do.”
Colmore and Bridges already were fifth-year seniors. The team’s fourth senior was infielder Nick Barber, who at this point is not as certain as the pitchers about playing again.
ECU juniors who are most likely in draft consideration are pitcher Gavin Williams, two-way standout Alec Burleson and outfielder Bryson Worrell. Corner infielder Thomas Francisco is a draft-eligible sophomore.
National writer Jeff Goodman reported that the NCAA on Monday will vote on whether winter and spring sports players will receive an extra year of eligibility. There is a chance there will be no further eligibility granted, but the NCAA Division I council committee said on March 13 it agreed some type of eligibility relief was appropriate for student-athletes who participated in spring sports.
“I’m not going to say what I think the best thing to do is, because it doesn’t matter,” Godwin said. “On March 30, hopefully we have more information on what the NCAA decision is, but I feel pretty confidently that they’re definitely going to give the seniors a year back. How that is going to look with scholarship percentages, will that count toward your 11.7 or not count? I have no idea, and I’m not going to play the what-if game.”