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How Texas Tech can benefit from the baseball relief granted by the NCAA

What the blanket waiver NCAA relief means for the Red Raider baseball team

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Michigan vs Texas Tech Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

As of Monday (June 15th) we have endured the absence of live basketball and baseball in both the professional and college ranks since March 12th (95 days and counting). Football has been in the offseason and live play hasn’t been affected… yet, other than college spring games. However, concerns over the coronavirus pandemic have affected in-person recruiting and team activities. NASCAR and the PGA have begun to hold live events recently so there are positive signs for the upcoming football season.

With that being said, due to the college baseball season being cut short and the Red Raiders being swindled out of the school’s first CWS Championship, the NCAA recently granted waivers to key rules governing the rosters of college baseball teams. The NCAA Division I Committee for Legislative Relief granted blanket waivers for colleges for the 2020-2021 academic year (and only this upcoming season). I will focus on the three most important parts of the NCAA’s blanket waiver that could affect Texas Tech the most.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Michigan vs Texas Tech Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The 35-man roster requirement is eliminated.

For the upcoming 2020-2021 season, there is no roster limit. That’s right. Unlimited. However, don’t expect to see Texas Tech all of a sudden go the NFL route with a 53-man roster. That’s a lot of additional mouths to feed and as much success as Tim Tadlock has had in recent years, college baseball just doesn’t generate as much revenue as the football team does.

My prediction is that the Red Raiders coaching staff will stay fairly close to the normal 35-man roster. Baseball and sports in general are routine oriented. Tim Tadlock has shown to be no different. I would predict a max of 37 to 38 players for Texas Tech next season if the 35 is exceeded at all. Bringing in too many additional players would create some havoc the following season once the 35 man roster size limit is effective again. The transfer portal might crash from Texas Tech transfer overload.

According to the D1 Baseball transfer tracker, there are currently 5 Red Raiders that have taken advantage of the transfer portal this year. I include this to support my theory that Tech will not be loading up on additional players as roster movement continues to occur. After all, there are only 9 spots on the field that can play at one time. Playing time will still have to be managed. The following players have entered the NCAA transfer portal:

1. Freshman infielder TJ Rumfield is transferring to McLennon Community College
2. Freshman infielder Jared Cushing is transferring to Xavier
3. Sophomore outfielder Tanner O’Tremba has not selected his transfer location.
4. Freshman catcher Bo Willis is transferring to Weatherford College.
5. Freshman pitcher Steven Vasquez Jr. has not selected his transfer location.
NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Texas Tech Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Scholarship counter increase to 32 (up from 27)

Not only has the roster size been increased, but the number of players that Texas Tech can have on scholarship has increased. Five additional players can be given scholarships than could have received them in previous years. In addition, any 2019-2020 seniors that decide to return to officially play out their senior season again in 2020-2021 do not count against that number.

Therefore, Texas Tech could have as many as 34 players on scholarship next baseball season. We just heard that John “The Whammer” McMillon has signed an undrafted free agent offer from the Kansas City Royals now that the shortened 5 round MLB draft has concluded. That leaves two more seniors that have the option to return to Tech – 2nd baseman Brien Klein and pitcher Conner Queen. Time will tell if they receive and sign offers of their own.

Red Raider fans would have loved to see all three of our seniors back but I definitely understand Big Bad John going ahead and making the jump. A pitcher’s arm lasts only so long especially a power arm such as his. With John’s big arm and the pandemic slowing Josh Jung’s advancement, I could see a scenario where McMillon reaches the big leagues before Jung does. You heard it here first.

Don’t @ me – nah, you can @ me, I can take it.

Scholarship agreements can be below 25% minimum threshold

In case you didn’t know, as things stood pre-COVID-19, Texas Tech (and all other baseball programs) was allowed to offer a total of 11.7 scholarships. Why 11.7? I don’t know. I’ll have to further research it sometime and maybe write about it. The limit is still 11.7 but previously, if a scholarship was offered then it had to be at least a 25% scholarship. That 25% minimum requirement is gone for at least this upcoming season.

What does this mean and why is that a good thing?

This means that Tim Tadlock has more flexibility in how he offers scholarships to future Red Raider baseball players. In addition, more players can get some type of financial aid. Flexibility is always a good thing. Tim Tadlock can now negotiate offers to his players on better financial aid agreements as possible. He still has to adhere to the 11.7 total scholarships and what is now a 32-player limit, but if Tadlock can convince a player to play for a national title contender for a 12.5% scholarship, that would allow him to offer another high-caliber player a more enticing scholarship offer. This is an option that would not have been available in prior years and Tadlock could have potentially missed out on a player to a program that was able to offer more.

The SEC attempted to increase the scholarship total to 13.7 for one year (2 full additional scholarships), but that proposal failed to pass. I’m sure that will be brought up again but the current financial landscape would make it difficult for schools across the board to add additional money to what is generally an athletic budget that runs with a deficit. That’s a hard sell right now.

More importantly, Kendall Rogers of DI Baseball is reporting that there is some momentum to permanently keep the scholarship limit at 32 players and to permanently get rid of the 25% scholarship minimum. With Texas Tech’s current recruiting momentum, that would certainly be a net positive for Red Raider fans who enjoy seeing that sweet sweet Double T in Omaha.