SEC Mississippi LSU Baseball

(ON FILE: LSU players line up to shake hands with Mississippi players after the Southeastern Conference tournament NCAA college baseball championship game, Sunday, May 27, 2018, in Hoover, Ala.) (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel for those bigger issues clogging up the nation.

Did you hear?

The NCAA did the right thing.

Never mind that it seemed like a no-brainer — that is certainly no guarantee in these matters.

Want more?

It was something that actually benefits the student-athletes.

And the clincher?

It involved college baseball, the sport the NCAA loves to ignore and throw crumbs at except for the fortnight of the College World Series before sending it back to time out.

If the NCAA can do something that benefits college baseball, then there's hope for having live games and open bars and restaurants to watch them in somewhere down the line.

Sure, it took a broader decision, lumping baseball in with all the NCAA spring sports, but at this point you don't argue with small victories.

Basically, the NCAA gave all those spring student-athletes — even card-carrying baseball players — an extra year of eligibility for this lost season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Only logical, you say?

It was something of a surprise.

By the time Monday's vote by the Division I Council came around, it appeared the NCAA was up to its old tricks again with baseball.

Once considered a formality, as the vote neared, rumors and leaks from near and far suggested the matter had hit snags, second thoughts were running rampant. Hints of compromises were being tossed about, mainly to water down the whole proposal.

Translation: They appeared to be getting their excuses in order before slamming the "reject" stamp down once again.

Yet they still did the right thing, yes, this same council that last dropped by the ballpark — looking at you, Big 12 and Big Ten — to casually deny college baseball teams a third full-time assistant coach.

Now they not only granted seniors a do-over for their final season, it was across the board — freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be freshmen, sophomores and juniors again.

And whatever seniors return will not count against that gosh-awful 11.7 limit for scholarships (that must be divvied up among 27 players).

I'm honestly surprised. Not complaining, just shocked.

If you're looking out for the players, it was important that juniors get to return as juniors. The upper echelon gets drafted after their junior seasons and the threat of returning for their senior season is about the only bargaining leverage they have with the pros.

The rumored hangup may have come when the committee realized that it would cost schools money.

And it surely will, mainly paying for the extra scholarships.

It's not the best timing for extra expenses, of course, as all schools are going to be feeling the financial pinch from the coronavirus. And even that is assuming that the football cash cow still produces this season.

There is no requirement that schools have to give senior returnees the same scholarship they had this year — it's just the maximum they can get.

Yes, there will be tough decisions for some schools to make.

Some may decide they can't afford the tab on the extra-year scholarships, particularly after next year's freshmen and junior college classes come in.

There could be some awkward conversations with players wishing to take advantage of an extra senior year.

That's OK.

Let the schools deal with that, and their consciences.

Even now, not all Division I schools even fill their puny allotment of 11.7 scholarships.

But at least the option is there to do the right thing. A school's frugality might get in the way, but it won't be handcuffed by the NCAA.

In some ways the loosening of the scholarship limits is a little like an NFL team deferring a player's money to get in under the salary cap. Eventually the rent comes due.

As it stands now, the waiver on the 11.7 limit is a one-season deal, for next spring.

After that, for the 2022 season, the 11.7 eyesore rears its ugly head again.

With all four classes getting the extra year this season, the backlog could still come.

But the NCAA has time to possibly adjust that, maybe gradually transition back to 11.7.

Better yet, maybe it works out that the NCAA increases the scholarship limit for a year and realizes it did not prompt the earth to open up and swallow the sport whole.

They may find that it's possible to give more than 11.7 scholarships without destroying the fabric of the college game.

Maybe they scholarship limit gets raised permanently.

And that would truly be the right thing to do.

________

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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