Everyone in collegiate athletics was monitoring the NCAA on March 30, when the Division I Council was determining how it would treat the eligibility of spring athletes whose seasons were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For some, such as University of Alabama shortstop Kolby Robinson, they needed more than the simple yes or no of additional eligibility granted. They needed financial help to play that extra season, if it were granted.
The eligibility came, but the financial help did not. With that, Robinson’s playing career ended.
The NCAA’s decision could have given Robinson, a senior in 2020, a 2021 season he did not expect to have, but he chose to leave UA and start life after baseball. He spoke about that decision with Tidesports.com.
“The biggest factor in my decision was the financial burden it would’ve put me in if I would’ve come back again,” Robinson said. “I’m gonna be the one having to pay for my college. As hard as it was to give it up, I had to start looking at the long term. Ten years from now, what’s going to be more important: going back for one more year or having a lot of student loans? I have to make a grown-man decision and look out for my future financially.”
Robinson came to UA as a walk-on from Wallace State Community College and burst onto the scene as a junior, starting 55 games with a .280 batting average and seven steals, which tied for second on the team. The season earned him a partial athletic scholarship for 2020, but college baseball remains a sport tasked with distributing 11.7 scholarships through a 35-man roster. The scholarship was minimal, and part of the NCAA Division I Council’s decision was that seniors who do return for an additional season can receive less or as much aid as they were receiving before, but not more.
“At first, I was holding out a little bit of hope that the seniors would get a full ride coming back, but once they came out and said you could only get as much as you were on the previous year, that’s when it hit me that I wouldn’t be able to afford that to come back,” Robinson said.
A few days after, Robinson and UA coach Brad Bohannon had a conversation. Robinson said he and Bohannon parted ways on good terms.
“Being able to have the opportunity to play for Bama, that was good enough for me,” Robinson said.
As for what happens now, Robinson hopes to get into the financial world. His degree is in exercise science, but it’s mostly a function of the credits he brought with him from Wallace State CC and what made it easiest for him to graduate on time. Robinson hopes to use the friendships and connections he made playing baseball to find work in the field.
For now, he is giving lessons for All Star Sports Training, a sports instruction and training center in his hometown of Cullman. He’s hopeful those will keep him close to the game as he transitions away from playing it, but it won’t eradicate the uneasy feeling of his career ending the way it did.
“It’s something you work so hard for, so having that come to an end — especially the way it did — it was difficult at the time,” Robinson said. “It’s difficult, just because I worked so hard in the summer and the fall, and especially starting the way we did, we truly believed we were going to be in a Regional at the end of the year. Not being able to have the opportunity to show people how good we were, that part was tough.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson