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Penn State Baseball Coach Rob Cooper Weighs In On NCAA Baseball, Softball Third Assistant Proposal

The NCAA rejected a proposal put forth by the SEC that would give the option to schools to upgrade their volunteer assistant coaching position in baseball and softball to a third full-time assistant position.

The proposal addressed the coach-to-player ratio of the two sports currently with just two full-time assistants, which stands at 12-to-1 for baseball and 7-to-1 for softball. It would also give more opportunities to coaches on staff that receive no pay, benefits, and lack the ability to perform essential duties to their development on the job like recruiting.

“I’m for making this sport better, and anytime you can add a coach that will impact positively the student-athletes, especially for baseball having a low coach-to-player ratio,” Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper said. “Obviously, I was disappointed.”

Much like the rest of the nation’s Division I teams, Penn State baseball and softball employ three full-time coaches and a volunteer assistant coach. That volunteer assistant experience has become crucial in the two sports to securing a full-time coaching job elsewhere.

However, it’s been noted that having the position as a volunteer job could be a barrier to entry that keeps potential coaches out of the game.

“I’m very fortunate. I’m in this game because I had great coaches that were mentors,” Cooper said. “Everything I think is sacred in my life — meeting my wife, my kids, coaching on the USA team, and having this job — it’s all because I got great opportunities and had great mentors.

“I’m a guy that firmly believes that we’ve got to grow this game and we’ve got to make opportunities for coaches that are coming behind us.”

Of the major conferences, the ACC, SEC, and Pac-12 voted “yes” to the proposal, but the Big Ten and Big 12 voted “no.” Part of the issue for some athletic departments around the country is that softball was a last-minute addition to the proposal. Oregon State athletic director Scott Barnes noted that he wasn’t sure it was necessary for softball with the coach-to-athlete ratio not as wide of a gap as baseball’s is.

However, college softball coaches around the country from Arizona’s eight-time national champion Mike Candrea to former athletes like Olympic gold medalist Michele Smith noted the need for the third assistant in softball. They referenced positives like the increased ability for young coaches to break into the industry, the need to compensate integral parts of the coaching staff for their work, and the overall benefit to the student-athlete experience.

“I think they should do it,” Penn State softball head coach Amanda Lehotak said. “I just think the more opportunities you can give young coaches, the better.”

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know that bad, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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