The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee’s recommendation to remove, at least temporarily, composite bats from NCAA competition. NOTE: This is a ban in college baseball only, composite bats are still legal in High School down through T-ball for now. Also, hybrid bats are still legal in College baseball (bats with composite handles and alloy barrels).
The rules committee proposed the action in July and met again via conference call August 17 after hearing comments from the membership and manufacturers about the recommendation. After considerable discussion, the rules committee concluded that composite bats will not be allowed for the time being.
The committee’s main concern about composite bats is that they are susceptible to performance improvement above standards set by the NCAA, either through normal use or alterations to the bats.
While committee members are not convinced that simple compliance testing of specific bats will solve what they see to be a significant problem in the sport, the committee agreed with a suggestion from the NCAA Baseball Research Panel to seek additional testing to determine if it is feasible to allow composite bats in NCAA play this season.
The research panel met with baseball bat manufacturers August 12 in Indianapolis to explore whether composite bats could be used within NCAA guidelines and parameters.
During the 2009 Division I Baseball Championship, composite bats were selected for ball exit speed ratio (BESR) certification tests. Of the 25 bats tested, 20 failed the official BESR test for current NCAA performance levels. Because all bat designs must pass that test before mass production, the results indicated that the performance of such bats changed thereafter, most likely due to repeated, normal use or intentional alteration.
In the meantime, the NCAA plans to conduct additional testing that will provide the baseball rules committee another opportunity for review. Additionally, the committee is open to providing an opportunity for companies to prove that their bats would meet current NCAA standards regardless of use or tampering.
As for beyond the upcoming season, the baseball research panel is recommending that an Accelerated Break-In (ABI) process be added to the certification process under the new Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) standard to help address the issue of improved performance and further the goal of having all bats in NCAA play remain under the NCAA limit through the life of the bat.
The BBCOR is a method designed to measure the performance of the bat. The ABI is designed to replicate repeated use or intentional alteration of the bat. This process has been used with some success in the certification process for softball bats.