Bulldogs hire what they need in Lemonis

Published 8:47 pm Wednesday, June 27, 2018

With the names of Jim Schlosnagle, Dan McDonnell and Tim Corbin thrown around for months in the Mississippi State baseball coaching search, it was fair for Bulldog fans to wonder who Chris Lemonis was.

The answer to the question of who Chris Lemonis is, is a complex one which takes more nuance than looking at his record at Indiana.

It takes basic understanding of how scholarships, and the lack thereof, work in college baseball and specifically in Mississippi.

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Not everyone operates on the same amount of scholarships inside the world of college baseball.

Sure, everyone is allocated 11.7 scholarships to dish out to 25 baseball players and each team is allowed 35 players on their spring roster.

That’s when the fairness and the equality stops in college baseball in the SEC.

States such as Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas and others have lotteries in their state which allow in-state students to attend their university for reduced prices and sometimes even free if they meet a minimal criteria.

That means baseball programs don’t have to give those in-state players scholarship money, and are allowed to use the 11.7 scholarships they have allocated for out-of-state students.

Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn do not have those advantages. There’s no creative advantage for in-state students which allows a clear advantage for those schools. There’s no “Bordering States” waiver like Arkansas has. There’s no TOPS program which Louisiana has. There’s no Bright Futures or HOPE Scholarships which Georgia and Florida have.

To be clear, those scholarships and waivers are available for all in-state students, not just baseball players, which makes it work in the eyes of the NCAA.

But the reality of the situation is, it requires the aforementioned Mississippi and Alabama schools play behind the eight-ball in regards to how many scholarships they have.

Which is why Lemonis is a great hire for Mississippi State.

He was at Louisville when Dan McDonnell first got there. He was McDonnell’s ace recruiter after being at The Citadel for 12 years.

At Louisville, Lemonis helped take the program to three College World Series appearances, their first in program history.

He did all this recruiting at a program that didn’t, and still does not, have any scholarship advantages. He recruited behind the eight ball there.

At Indiana, Lemonis continued to recruit extremely well. He did it, again, with scholarship restrictions some of his competition did not have. He did it without advantages.  He went to three regionals in three years there.

That matters at Mississippi State.

While the Bulldogs fan base is one of, if not the, best college baseball fan bases in the country, it doesn’t cancel out the very real scholarship disadvantage they face when compared to other SEC schools.

The scholarship disadvantage does not mean you cannot win big at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama or Auburn, but it does mean you have to be efficient and you have to get the most out of the players you bring into your program.

There’s less room for error at the programs without the scholarship advantages in this conference, but if history is any indicator, Lemonis has shown time and time again he’s brilliant in that regard.

That’s why it’s a great hire.

Sports editor Collin Brister can be reached at collin.brister@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5306.