Creative scholarships would help Tulane baseball

At Tulane University, the time has come for the school to fix its baseball problem. 

Since 2008, Tulane’s once flagship athletic team has reached the NCAA Tournament twice. 

The reason why is something that has persisted through the end of the very successful tenure of Rick Jones, through the brief and successful tenure of David Pierce, and now through two years of current head coach Travis Jewett.

The problem is not enough good players. In the preseason baseball poll in the American Athletic Conference, Tulane was picked eighth. The Green Wave finished eighth.

Over the past decade, the paradigm in the college game has changed for private schools. There are 11.75 scholarships that can be divided among 27 players. Each scholarship recipient must get at least 25 percent.

When Tulane gives a player a 25 percent scholarship – and a scholarship for one year is now worth $70,000 – the family of a prospective student-athlete must come up with the rest, more than $50,000 a year.

In most homes, this is not a sustainable number.

In 2005, star pitcher Micah Owings transferred to Tulane from Georgia Tech. He got a partial scholarship. But, his family footed the rest of the bill, about $30,000. But, Owings was at Tulane for one year, not three or four. In the past, if Tulane wanted to give a full ride to one player, they could offer another just books.

Not anymore. There’s no doubt that college baseball should be Tulane’s highest-profile sport. The Green Wave was ranked No. 1 in the country in 2005, as Tulane made its second trip to Omaha in five seasons.

In baseball, Tulane can win a College World Series. In football, even with a perfect season, the playing field is titled against schools outside of the Power 5. Ask Central Florida, who was undefeated in 2017 and claimed its own version of the national title.

Baseball has a rich tradition. The last four coaches – Milt Retif, Joe Brockhoff, Rick Jones and David Pierce – all departed with winning records.

Since 1951, Tulane has had one football coach depart with a winning record, and it was a small sample with two terrific seasons under Tommy Bowden.

The baseball solution is simple. Each year, give baseball three to five scholarships that are either academic or need-based. It is how Rice landed third baseman Anthony Rendon and how Vanderbilt signed ace lefty David Price.

In June 2001, Tulane was playing the opening game of the College World Series. Secret service surrounded the park in anticipation of a visit by President George W. Bush. Bush stepped out of the first base dugout and shook the hand of Wave head coach Rick Jones.

It was free advertising for the Tulane baseball program and the university on national TV. It can happen again. And, as usual, the solution, or lack of one, is on the Tulane campus.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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