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Potential Effects of the
"Hope" and "Tops" Scholarship Programs
on Intercollegiate Athletic Programs

This is the fourth installment on the issue of "stockpiling" by college baseball programs. We take a look at the potential effects on college baseball of the Georgia "Hope" and Louisiana "Tops" scholarship programs.

This article will discuss the effects and/or potential effects that Georgia's "Hope" and Louisiana's "Tops" education scholarship programs can have on collegiate athletics, especially in the minor sports.

First let me say that I am in no way anti or against these programs. As a matter of fact it is my opinion that every state should be required to implement similar programs.

For those not familiar with these programs the following is an excerpt from the Georgia "Hope" scholarship program website. The criteria and methodology for the Louisiana "Tops" program is similar so I will save you from reading through both.

Georgia Department of Education Hope Scholarship Program

For students interested in attending a Georgia Public College or University, the HOPE Scholarship provides tuition, mandatory fees and a $150 per semester book allowance. To be eligible, a student must be a Georgia resident, a 1993 or later high school graduate and have completed high school with a "B" average. Students must maintain a "B" average in college.

Georgia's HOPE Scholarship provides eligible students wishing to attend a Georgia Private College or University a $3,000 per academic school year scholarship. These students also receive a $1,050 Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant. To be eligible, a student must be a Georgia resident, a 1996 or later high school graduate and have completed high school with a "B" average. Students must maintain a "B" average in college.

What great programs! They reward students for working hard in the classroom.

But what does this mean for intercollegiate athletics, and college baseball in particular?

With the new scholarship blending rules coming into effect this year, by the NCAA, (see Scholarship Blending from the HSBBWeb) the advantage of these two state funded programs will give Georgia and Louisiana college baseball programs an edge when it comes to recruiting student-athletes.

Colleges in other states will have to use general scholarship (academic) dollars to "blend" with athletic scholarship monies. Georgia and Louisiana will have the state funded Hope and Tops monies to blend with their athletic funds.

These benefits will be available to every Georgia and Louisiana college, public or private. Every sanctioning classification from NCAA Division I, DII, DIII, NAIA, and NJCAA.

Potentially instead of having 11.7 scholarships to work with at an NCAA Division I school in Georgia or Louisiana, programs with the use of Hope or Tops scholarships could have 25 or even 30 full scholarships!

This would make for an uneven playing field when it comes to college baseball recruiting. Especially if you consider that schools in these states will then be able to use more of the allotted (11.7, 9, etc.) scholarship monies for "out of state" players.

Some schools are limited as to the number of male student-athletes that each program is allowed to have on their rosters (including walk-on players) in an effort to comply with Title IX rules.

The interpretation of this part of the Title IX criteria is different from school to school and athletic conference to athletic conference.

Schools with roster number restrictions, in Georgia and Louisiana would benefit from the scholarship programs but potentially not as much as schools without roster restrictions.

What's the bottom line to this discussion? That's difficult to say at this time.

It would seem that there may be the possibility of state funded "stockpiling" of college baseball programs.

If the college baseball coaches in Georgia and Louisiana choose to use this method to increase the size of their team rosters many more "in state" student-athletes will be afforded the opportunity to stay at home and try to get playing time at the Georgia and Louisiana colleges.

What happens to the player that does not have a "B" average in high school? I'm sure that if he is a stud player athletic monies will be awarded just as they always have been.

The players that may feel the effects most of these programs are the "projectable" players that do not have a "B" average. It would seem that they may have to look farther away for college baseball opportunities, or settle for lower round monies available in the professional draft.

I am in favor of rewarding ALL high school students that maintain good grades with the opportunity to get a college education if the so choose.

Hopefully the college coaches and school athletic directors (along with the various conferences) will make the appropriate adjustments to eliminate any unfair recruiting advantages.

However it may become necessary for the NCAA to implement roster size restrictions to the upper level divisions of college baseball in order to level the playing field.

"Hats Off" to the Georgia and Louisiana departments of education ... they are doing the right thing!

To the college baseball coaches of Georgia and Louisiana ... please do the same for our kids.

As I have stated in the previous three installments of this feature ... when roster sizes reach 40, 50 or more players, kids can get hurt. Dreams of playing college baseball can be crushed.

And it can happen to your child.

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