The NCAA Division I Council ruled Monday to grant an extra year of eligibility to all spring-sport athletes after their seasons were canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Student-athletes who play winter sports — basketball included — will not receive any extra eligibility as their seasons were either completed or nearly complete.
Spring sports teams will also be able to carry more scholarships to allow for the potential return of some 2019-20 student-athletes, and, in an important change, schools will be able to adjust the amount of aid given to seniors returning for another season.
In a nod to the financial uncertainty faced by higher education, the Council vote also provided schools with the flexibility to give students the opportunity to return for 2020-21 without requiring that athletics aid be provided at the same level awarded for 2019-20. This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.
Eligible students returning for 2020-21 will also be able to request support from the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund.
For baseball, the only spring sport with a roster limit, the Council elected to increase said limit to account for returning seniors. This means senior baseball players who choose to return won’t count toward the 35-player limit.
While this is good news for many student-athletes, there are still plenty of questions left to answer. Some spring sport athletes, like Penn State Lacrosse’s Grant Ament, have already said they’re moving on, and those who do return could get less financial aid. This could also create challenging situations for incoming freshmen and returning seniors competing for limited playing time. Something else to keep in mind is if the current precautions and shutdowns have an effect on fall sports (namely football), this decision could set a costly precedent for schools in the future.
The statement from the NCAA did not explicitly mention if the extra year could be used at another member institution, nor did it address the possibility of incoming players being released from letters of intent.