LSU head coach Paul Mainieri is terrific with the media. He spends considerable time answering most if not all questions.
But when asked about TOPS, the state tuition award that keeps so many Louisiana high school students in state for college, Mainieri put on his best dancing shoes.
Why? Because he’s been told to keep his mouth shut by his bosses.
And that is that.
“I am not going to answer that question, because I have been instructed not to answer that question,” said Mainieri. “I have to answer to a boss. We are going to wait and see how it all plays out. And we will have some comments after it is all resolved.”
One of the possible changes, in a so called worst case scenario, is changing the TOPS award eligibility to a minimum score of 28 on the ACT.
Former Tulane head coach Rick Jones said that change “would certainly make it more challenging” for in-state schools, especially in college baseball.
College baseball is an equivalency sport. There are 11.75 scholarships to be doled out to the entire roster. A star player may take up a full scholarship. Each player on the roster must be given 25 percent.
A student athlete on tops is like having a full scholarship player that doesn’t count against the baseball program’s number. Jones said that is significant.
“You can bring a player in on tops, and then go out of state, and while recruiting, flatter the out of state star,” Jones noted.
Baseball programs in the state like the University of New Orleans, Nicholls State and Southeastern would be hurt significantly if the tops award minimum was raised to a 28 on the ACT.
For those schools working on limited budgets, TOPS is a vital part of their program.
“It will destroy the baseball programs in the state,” said a source who did not want to be identified for this story. “The majority of student athletes on TOPS in Division one college baseball in the state have anywhere between a 21 and 24 on the ACT.”
“This could be devastating,” said the source.
So, as the budget future in the state is debated, high school seniors and their parents are just two groups that are closely following the discussion of TOPS.
Baseball coaches are also waiting and not talking.
So, I asked Paul Mainieri.
“Does it concern you at all?”
“That’s the same question you asked me. Ed, you are trying to reel me in, but I am too much of a wily veteran to have that happen to me.”