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NCAA closing in on approving an extra year of eligibility for spring sports athletes

It’s the right decision for the athletes, and has the largest ramifications for baseball players

North Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

As you all have no doubt heard by now, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak forced the NCAA to cancel the remainder of their winter and spring sports, effectively ending the careers of the seniors who were participating in those sports.

Now, the NCAA is closing in on approving a proposal that would allow all spring sports athletes to gain an extra year of eligibility. This is obviously the right move by the NCAA to make amends for the lost season.

The sport that this impacts the most is baseball as it has profound ramifications on the MLB Draft.

MLB teams are allotted a certain pool of bonus money with which to sign players drafted in the top ten rounds. The amount per team is based on their draft position - last year’s bonus pools ranged from $4.8M (Red Sox) to $16.1M (Diamondbacks).

So why does this matter?

College seniors almost always have no leverage with which to negotiate after being drafted. Their options are typically, A) take what you get offered, or B) don’t play the game anymore. So seniors will take option A. As a way to “save” pool money, MLB teams will draft college seniors in the top ten rounds so they can sign them to minimal deals (for example, Mississippi State’s Jake Mangum was drafted in the 4th round by the Mets last year - a pick with a slot value of $488k - and he signed for $20k) and use those “savings” on other drafted players.

With this decision by the NCAA, the current college seniors will now have negotiating power so they won’t have to sign for minimum deals. This will also have a trickle-down effect as that means that college underclassmen, junior college players, and high school seniors (at least those outside the 1st round) won’t receive as large of signing bonuses as in years past.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the baseball players, but one thing is for certain across all sports: this is the correct decision by the NCAA.