Top prospects hurt by agent rule
NCAA's questionable enforcement has sidelined some big-time players like Nebraska's Logan Ehlers
Ron Polk was on another bus ride with another college baseball team, going to another game, when his cell phone rang. He was told of the latest NCAA sanctions against a player. "Is that right?" Polk said. "Can't say it surprises me. The NCAA, they're sticklers over certain things and turn a blind eye to other things. They punish the honest kid."
The 67-year old Polk, who coached at Georgia Southern, Mississippi State and Georgia over a 40-year career, the winningest coach in SEC history -- and the man with the most to say about what he believes to be unfair treatment of baseball by the NCAA -- was told that Logan Ehlers, a prized freshman lefthanded pitcher for Nebraska, was suspended for the first 60 percent of the season by the NCAA. Ehlers was punished because his advisor spoke to a Major League team on his behalf last summer. According to a story by Aaron Fitt of Baseball America, the advisor working for Ehlers was asked by a Toronto Blue Jays representative if the amount of money it would take to sign Ehlers was still the same. When the advisor said, "Yes," he'd broken the NCAA's "no agent" Rule.
Ehlers, drafted in the eighth round by the Blue Jays, turned down $800,000 to go to Nebraska and pitch for the Cornhuskers. How the NCAA learned of the illegal contact between the advisor and the Blue Jays is unknown, but Polk, now a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said, "These things happen all the time, but no one tells the truth. If they did, there would be a lot more ineligible players. There's no question that most lie. What I don't get is this: Why not let a kid have the ability to talk about his future? Unless he takes hard cash, what has he done wrong?"
The system, at present, harbors dishonesty. According to the Baseball America report, which is backed up by Polk, in most cases everyone simply lies when asked if there has been advisor-team contact during the days leading up to August 15, when a player has to report to college and give up his right to sign a contract.
To read Jeff Bradley's full take on the problems with the NCAA's application of its agent rule to college baseball players, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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Insider has assembled a team to expand college baseball coverage in 2011. ESPN columnists Ryan McGee, Jeff Bradley and draft expert Keith Law are joined by CollegeSplits.com's Jeff Sackmann and longtime expert Will Kimmey in breaking down the top trends and stories each week.