NCAA approves extra year of eligibility for spring athletes, with a catch

The NCAA Division I Council voted on Monday to qualify an additional year for all spring athletes who canceled their seasons due to COVID-19, but the generosity comes with a caveat for seniors:

If you decide to return to campus, what you previously received in scholarship money may be less – much less.

The Council, “in a nod to the financial uncertainty facing higher education,” gave its schools the opportunity to give athletes who are eligible to finish this spring the opportunity to return without demanding athletic aid awarded to each player at the same level.

While seniors could see their scholarship contracts changed – in some cases lowered to zero – underclasses and incoming freshmen will see no difference.

Coaches will have to have difficult conversations with seniors who want another chance to finish their career on a champion bill, but who will have to pay more of their education out of pocket.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at campus level,” said Council President M. Grace Calhoun, Penn’s athletic director, in a statement. “The Board of Directors encouraged conferences and schools to take action for the benefit of student athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do so.”

The Council has adapted the rules for financial support so that teams can bring more players to the fair to account for an influx of newcomers to all seniors who decide to stay.

NCAA athletes start their careers with five years of playing four seasons in their sport. All current spring athletes now have six years to qualify.

Winter sports athletes, such as basketball and ice hockey, were not included in the ruling because many or all of their regular seasons were completed.

Monday’s vote ended several weeks of speculation between athletes, coaches and athletic administrators who started on March 12 when the NCAA canceled the remaining championship events amid fears of the corona virus.

The following day, perhaps felt by the emotional whip of so suddenly ending thousands of athletic careers, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee announced that its leadership had agreed that “it should be suitable for all Division I student athletes participating in the spring sports was appropriate, “” Which led to athletes rejoicing as college sports coaches and power brokers jointly asked one question: how?

The NCAA said it would take time to smooth out the details.

But as time went on, the financial picture deteriorated rapidly. Last week, the NCAA announced it would pay out only $ 225 million of an expected $ 600 million annual payout to Division I schools, and with the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, it became clear that there is no guarantee that schools will be able to milking the football cow this fall.

Of course, doubts that the NCAA would actually vote to qualify for subsidy relief began to creep in, and Monday’s vote began to feel like empathy against the economy.

It turned out that, with the NCAA qualifying athletes for lighting and the schools’ flexibility to achieve this, there was no clear winner or loser.

“I think this was a decision that was made wholeheartedly, in an effort to support student athletes who hadn’t had the chance they thought,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said on Monday evening. “But when the head starts and you think about how you’re going to pay for it and what other implications there will be for student athletes, I think that’s an acknowledgment that there are tax realities for many conferences and schools. ‘

Scott said the Pac-12 membership supported the NCAA’s decision and concluded that some would consider fully supporting the return of seniors.

“I know we have schools with a strong belief that they would not reduce aid to a returning senior,” said Scott.

Obviously, outside of the Power Five conferences, every senior’s decision will outweigh the overall budget. A USA Today analysis said that bringing seniors back into spring sports could cost athletic departments anywhere from $ 500,000 to $ 900,000.

While it may seem like this statement may only make the wealthy of college sports richer, it may not, especially if many show jumping athletes have partial scholarships or choose to continue.

“You’re talking about an issue of equality,” said USC baseball coach Jason Gill on Friday. “It costs $ 74,000 a year to go to the USC. It costs $ 18,000 a year to go to Long Beach State. So you can come back, but you have to pay your own way? Well, we’ll have guys transfer who can’t afford it. “

There is also a question of fairness on the field.

“If UCLA has 12 seniors and USC five, is that the same?” Gill said hypothetically, although the Trojans had five seniors this year.

The USC lacrosse team, which started 6-0 before the season was canceled, has eleven seniors.

“I know as a coach that I certainly don’t have to choose who gets that.” [scholarship] and who doesn’t, ”said USC Women’s Lacrosse Coach, Lindsey Munday, Friday. “Not all schools will be able to afford that, so are you planning to use this very uneven playing field? It is heavy. It is very difficult. “

With an unprecedented scenario like this, no decision would hit the right note. Officials from schools of all sizes try to give the NCAA the benefit of the doubt here.

“I think competitive benefits completely disappear from the window when dealing with something like this,” said Craig Pintens, Loyola Marymount athletic director, on Monday. “Obviously that’s something people will be concerned about, but I’m just happy and grateful that a decision has been made in the interest of student athletes everywhere. The competitive aspect will come naturally.”

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