There will be no National Champion in 2020. There will be no College World Series in 2020. How did we get here? What will happen moving forward? Will players get another year of eligibility? What will happen to high school seniors?
There are many questions floating around about the current state of college baseball, all of which are legitimate concerns. With that being said, let's take a look at the past week, the timeline of decisions made by the NCAA and NAIA, and what college baseball will look like moving forward.
1. The Coronavirus Pandemic
On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) a "public health emergency of international concern". As of March 16, there are 3,487 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the United States with 68 deaths, per Centers for Disease Control. These numbers are increasing daily. You can find out more information about the situation, symptoms, and preventative measures here.
2. Season In Full Swing
Up until last Monday (3/9), college baseball was cruising. Many D1 teams were about to begin conference play, while D2, D3, and NAIA were entering the middle part of their season. Some teams were emerging as serious College World Series contenders, while others were looking to turn their season around. We were providing college baseball coverage. Life was good.
Then the week began.
3. Season Cancelled - Timeline
Teams began announcing the temporary suspension of fans at their games. This action was intended to protect student-athletes and staff from contracting COVID-19 by limiting the number of spectators. A few schools went as far as suspending their season until the end of March until more information about the virus became available.
Nearly every school had announced the suspension of spectators at games. Many programs joined the trend of temporarily suspending their season until the end of March to protect the players, coaches, and staff. A few D2, D3, and NAIA programs announce the full cancellation of their season. This means that those teams would not play another game the rest of the 2019-2020 academic school year. Many players and fans of these programs were devastated by this news.
The Ivy League became the first D1 conference to cancel their season. As a result of their cancellation, we (College Baseball Hub) started a petition to request that the NCAA give those student-athletes another year of eligibility. Little did we know that the issue was about to become much bigger than just the Ivy League. Many D2, D3, and NAIA schools/conferences continue to announce the cancellation of their 2020 spring season, including reigning D3 National Champion Chapman University.
At 4:16PM EST, the NCAA announced that all winter and spring championships would be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that for the first time since 1947, there would be no national champion for college baseball. As a response to this information being released, many conferences announced the full cancellation of their spring sports. If you think about it logistically, who can blame them? If there's no championship to play for, why incur expenses traveling to games and put your athletes/staff at risk of contracting the virus? Once the NCAA made the call to cancel the championship, all of the other dominos fell. By the end of the day, nearly a dozen D1 conferences had permanently cancelled their 2020 season. We increased the scope of our petition to include all NCAA student-athletes involved in spring competition, not just Ivy League student-athletes. Our petition reached 15,000 signatures in just 24 hours.
90% of schools/conferences in the NCAA announced the suspension or cancellation of their spring season. At 2:30PM EST, the NCAA announced that all spring sport student-athletes (D1, D2, and D3) would be given another year of eligibility. This was a huge win for college baseball because it meant that seniors would have the opportunity to play again in 2021. Though we do not know if our petition had a direct impact on their decision, 26,500 signatures in 2 days is incredible. It was awesome to see the college baseball community come together to support this cause.
NAIA announced the cancellation of their spring season. They also announced the following: "In an effort to provide relief, no spring sport student-athlete will be charged a season of competition. Any spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled full-time in 2020 will be awarded two additional semester terms of attendance or the equivalent." This confirms that all D1, D2, D3, and NAIA players will be given another season of eligibility.
4. What's Next?
As of right now, there are still conferences that haven't officially "cancelled" the 2020 season, meaning they could resume play in a few weeks. However, since the NCAA has cancelled the championship, they would only be able to play the rest of the regular season and conference tournament. Though this option is still on the table, it is unlikely that these conferences will pursue that option. The main reason being that those student-athletes will have to forfeit this year's eligibility. So in our opinion, we have likely seen the last of the 2020 college baseball season.
5. Community Concerns
How will eligibility work next season?
All spring student-athletes will receive some form of a redshirt for the 2020 season. So if they were a senior in 2020, then they will be a redshirt senior in 2021. Yes, it is possible that we will see some 7th year seniors in 2021!
What if I am a college senior and can't afford tuition for another year?
This situation is very difficult. For many student-athletes, especially seniors, this season was their last shot at playing the sport they love. Thankfully the NCAA granted everyone another year of eligibility, so they at least have the opportunity to play another season. But, many players will not return because they simply cannot afford to go to school for another year. Hopefully these seniors look into transferring to a school with a more affordable tuition. It's not fair to those seniors, but it's something.
What if I am a college senior and am graduating in a few months?
The best option in this scenario is to enroll in graduate school. Graduate students are allowed to play as long as they have athletic eligibility. You can also look into adding a minor to prolong your undergraduate degree, but it's best to contact your Athletic Academic Adviser for information on this matter.
How will the MLB Draft work now that the season has been cancelled?
We have seen reports that the MLB Draft will be pushed back into mid-late summer. Since there are no games for scouts to attend, many teams will likely have private showcases. We are also in favor of an "MLB Combine", similar to what the NFL does for draft prospects. These are just rumors at the moment and we will keep you updated as more information becomes available.
I'm an incoming freshman, will there be room for me on next year's roster?
The NCAA is fully aware that, by granting eligibility to this year's seniors, there will be roster complications moving forward. Our best guess is that the NCAA will increase the roster size from 35 players to accommodate for the incoming freshmen. More specifically, we believe that they will allow a certain number of redshirts to not count against the 35 man roster. For example, 35 active players on the roster + 10 redshirts = 45 players in total. The NCAA will announce their plans in the coming weeks.
6. College Baseball Hub
We will continue to keep everyone updated on the latest information regarding the 2020 season. If the 2020 season is in fact cancelled, we will go back to sharing our off-season posts. Our attention will shift from in-season coverage to spreading information and recruiting tips for high school and junior college players. These include College Of The Day posts, Flashback Fridays, MLB Mondays, and more. We thank you for sticking with us during this unfortunate situation. We'd like to leave you with this final thought: