NCAA Gives Extra Year Of Eligibility To Spring Athletes, With A Catch
Spring sports seniors can come back.
How many will return?
The NCAA made it official by allowing those who were participating in spring sports to allow additional eligibility. This is good news for those who played in sports like baseball, lacrosse, golf, women’s water polo, softball, tennis, and others.
However, winter sports did not earn an extra year and that most notably includes college basketball whose seniors did not get to play in the NCAA Tournament. So, those players are either done with college athletics, unless they are going to pro.
There was a lot of talk about how would teams balance roster sizes and scholarships amount — baseball is the only school with a roster limit but that is getting an exemption — to allow seniors to keep playing under the aid they received and allow schools to bring in freshman.
However, the compromise that was made is not ideal for seniors who want to come back. While allowing for more eligibility is a nice gesture but it comes with an extremely large catch (bolded emphasis is mine).
“Members also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility who decide to stay.
“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.”
What this means is that schools can reduce, even down to zero, the amount of scholarship money they give to seniors who want to come back. Now, not every sport allows for a full ride as that is usually reserved for football, basketball, and maybe a few other sports. Schools make it work by combining partial scholarships with academic ones.
However, this move allows for coaches to basically tell seniors to take a walk if they feel their play over the past three or four years is not worth it over giving money to an incoming freshman. So, it is a double-edged sword, as the NCAA is providing an extra year of eligibility but it could come at a cost to some athletes who might have to pay even more out of pocket to play their sport at a very competitive level for the last time.
From a university standpoint, it does make sense because non-revenue sports have that name for a reason as they do not make money for their schools. Adding an extra few thousand dollars could hurt the school’s budget and particularly so this year as the NCAA handed out 1/3 less money than normal due to the NCAA Tournament being canceled.
At the end, this hurts those who want to come back and were on scholarship. Hopefully, coaches will do the right thing and bring back those who were earning aid or find other ways to close the gap or erase a difference in athletic aid. That directive could come from higher-ups to only give incoming freshman those scholarships to not break the budget.
This is basically one step forward for the NCAA but then take three steps back by allowing the option to schools to essentially cut seniors whose 2020 athletic year was ripped away due to a pandemic.