NOTE: This is written by CBSSports.com College Football blogger Bryan Fischer
The NCAA and Major League Baseball are in active discussions to develop a broad partnership that could result in a boom to the game at the collegiate level, according to a report obtained by CBSSports.com.
The partnership is aimed at expanding the importance of college baseball and is expected to result a significant investment by MLB that could include funding scholarships across the sport. The NCAA Board of Directors was briefed on the matter last week at their annual meeting.
"It's very early," a source said. "But we're hopeful something meaningful will come out of the talks."
Baseball is currently an equivalency sport at the collegiate level, with schools allotted 11.7 full scholarships to distribute how they see fit. This results in players receiving a wide range of scholarship money to attend school, from nothing to a select few getting a full scholarship depending on how the coach recruits. What form an MLB sponsorship will take is yet to be determined but it could result in a general scholarship fund or additional scholarships for each school paid by the league.
In addition to providing monetary support, the NCAA and MLB will explore joint efforts to improve diversity in the sport at both levels. According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, the percentage of black players in the major leagues last year increased to 8.8 from 8.5, which had been the lowest level since 2007, while the percentage of Latino players remained at 27 percent. NCAA data shows that just five percent of baseball players in the 2010-2011 school year were black at the Division I level, while six percent were Latino.
Other talks have centered on adjusting the timing of the College World Series and the MLB draft to line up better and the possibility that college switches to wood bats throughout the sport. The NCAA has already mandated a new Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) standard that has resulted in metal bats performing more like wooden ones. The NCAA also recently passed a proposal that allows a professional sports organization to serve as a financial sponsor of an event (regular season and postseason) and allow for professional sports organizations or personnel to be advertisers in conjunction with NCAA championships. Both steps are considered to be the start of an evolving relationship that ties college and pro baseball closer together while still maintaining the NCAA's amateurism values.
Further discussions will occur over the summer with possible actions presented to the NCAA Board in August.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.