UNO coach Blake Dean closely monitoring TOPS situation

Potential budget cuts endanger school athletic programs

It was the news that made everyone stop in their tracks, including UNO head baseball coach Blake Dean.

"I think everyone got shook up last night," Dean said.

On Thursday, the state was stunned when news broke that TOPS payments would stop immediately. On Friday, 80% of the payments were restored for this current semester only. But the future of the popular program remains uncertain and the ripple effects don't just touch the nearly 50,000 Louisiana students but athletic departments as well. Especially in a sport like baseball. Unlike football and basketball, baseball coaches have to divvy up 11.7 scholarships to a roster of 27 players. Rarely does a player receive a full athletic scholarship to play baseball. Instead, they receive partial aid with TOPS helping to fund the rest.

This allows coaches to allot bigger portions of their scholarship money to out-of-state players that wouldn't qualify for TOPS.

"It kind of puts your whole recruiting on halt to some degree because you can't offer a kid something that you don't know you're going to have or not have it. That's the biggest problem," Dean said. "You don't know if you are going to have to offer a kid athletic aid. Can they put academic aid in there? Is he going to get TOPS?"

No one currently knows the answer to that question. For now, coaches like Dean and others around the state remain in wait-and-see mode with hopes that the program can be properly funded and restored. If it isn't, programs like UNO's and others will be forced to adjust to survive and field competitive teams without a huge asset in attracting talent.

Dean: " For us, we'll find a way to make it work. We obviously go out and get a lot of out of state guys for us and we are trickling in some in-state guys as well. A program like LSU and UL where they base a lot of their, most of their, players in state, that's the schools it would affect more  because now they can't spend that extra 30 % to get an Alex Bregman. Now they would have to give athletic aid to these other in-state guys to keep them here."