Alabama baseball wrapped up a very good season earlier this month with a loss in the regionals. With a win, the Crimson Tide would have moved on to a super regional tournament and possibly a College World Series berth for the first time since 1999. Instead, the Tide ended with a respectable 37-24 record. As Alabama continues to win national titles in a variety of sports, fans are left wondering how Alabama baseball can climb to the next level. The answer is not one that everyone will find pleasing.
Alabama is one of the only states in the nation that does not have a lottery for higher education. It makes a difference in recruiting. NCAA rules allow 11.7 full scholarships for baseball in the top division. Teams very rarely award full scholarships to baseball players, choosing instead to divide the scholarship allocation among more players through partial scholarships. Division 1 teams typically carry between 30-40 players (Alabama listed 37 on the roster this season). Softball is allowed 15 scholarships and junior college teams area allowed 24, for the sake of comparison. This leaves baseball players, and their families, burdened with the expenses of higher education that players from most out of state teams do not shoulder.
Of the 16 SEC teams, 12 are allowed to supplement scholarships with funds from education lotteries. In other words, 12 SEC teams have a distinct recruiting advantage over Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi and Mississippi State. Alabama has had some very good players over the last few seasons, and Ole Miss is in the College World Series this season for the first time since 1972, so it might sound strange to suggest that there is still a hurdle to conquer. The truth is simple. It is difficult to build a program and consistently compete for top honors when you place yourself at a disadvantage from the beginning. The coaches and the players have done a remarkable job and they should be commended.
In other states that are not Alabama and Mississippi, SEC teams can provide academic scholarships to in-state players through lottery funds and save all of the athletic funds to recruit highly ranked out of state players. Coaching staffs for other SEC teams are not crippled by the financial burden of dividing scholarships and they don’t watch star players from financially challenged homes go to smaller programs who can offer more aid.
Governor Bentley has stated, on several occasions, that he would like to bring a lottery up for a statewide vote. He has not said he supports a lottery but, rather, that the citizens deserve a vote on the issue. He is right. However, as his first term ends and a likely second term faces us, there has yet to be a bill proposed for such a vote.
Many in the state oppose a lottery on religious grounds. As a Christian, I sympathize with the idea that gambling can create many other problems. I’ve seen it. I’ve worked in ministry for many years with addicts of all types, including gambling addicts. However, I think it is the church’s duty to help people make better decisions. It is not the role of the church to make decisions for people. Let’s be honest, Alabama has already lost the morality war. A scratch card is not going to send us over the edge.
A recent survey revealed nearly half of all babies in Alabama are born to unwed mothers. In some counties, the percentage is more than 70%. Morality? Let’s start with that. Drug use is on the rise, especially among teens, and violent crime remains constantly high. Instead of addressing these problems, politicians build a straw man argument against the moral decay of gambling—despite there being very little in scripture about the issue.
As state universities, again, vote to increase tuition, remember that other states place a greater value on higher education. Our government chooses posturing instead.
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