SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said he was disappointed that an SEC-sponsored effort to add a third assistant coach to Division I baseball and softball programs was defeated in a vote by the NCAA Division I Council last week.
Both softball and baseball currently have one head coach, two full-time assistants and a volunteer assistant. The SEC proposal would have given schools the option to move the volunteer position to full-time status.
“The dynamics of baseball, the dynamics of softball are such that it merits four full-time coaches fully engaged,” Sankey said. “Let me explain: You have offense and defense, right? You have pitching, you have hitting, you have infielders, you have outfielders. I played two years of college baseball as a catcher, that’s an entirely different skill set than playing shortstop. Outfield has different demands than others. You’re running bases, that’s a different element of the game. It is a game that has so many different elements it seems to justify three assistants.”
The SEC, ACC and Pac 12 were reportedly in favor of the proposal while the Big 10 and Big 12 were not. Some mid-major DI conferences voted in favor but others opposed it.
The volunteer assistant is often filled by a younger coach who hasn’t yet worked his way into a full-time role. Alabama coach Brad Bohannon got his start as a volunteer assistant for Kentucky before being promoted to a full-time assistant.
“I think everybody my age has a story about ‘I rented a room in a group house with a bunch of strangers for $250 a month at Kentucky when I first got there,’” Bohannon said. “Everybody has some version of a story like that, eating PB&J four nights a week and all of that. Luckily, we’re able to fund our volunteer position pretty decently through our camp revenue. I think the biggest issue is benefits. I look back and I was 26 years old as a volunteer coach and I had no health benefits. I rolled the dice and that’s absolutely stupid. I can’t believe the people around me didn’t talk more sense into me at the time.”
Volunteer assistants typically work a schedule that’s similar to their full-time counterparts, but can’t recruit off campus. The proposal would have allowed volunteer assistants to get on the road and recruit, which Bohannon said was an obstacle for him early in his career as he tried to move up the coaching ladder.
The vote on the proposal generated significant discussion around college athletics before and after the legislation failed last week. There was also discussion about the scholarship situation for both baseball and softball, which allow 11.7 and 12 scholarships, respectively.
“I think a theme in college athletics is that revenues are flattening out where expenses are continuing to rise every year,” Bohannon said. “I do understand that at Alabama we’re one of 21 sports. We’re a piece in a very large puzzle and there are a lot of variables. … Luckily we’re at a place and in a conference where all 14 ADs supported the proposal, but I know there are places that don’t have the revenue that Alabama has or the SEC has. There are very tough decisions that ADs, especially at mid-majors have to make, about how they allocate their dollars.”