HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – Some college student-athletes who saw their seasons cut short by the coronavirus pandemic were granted an extra year of eligibility Monday by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The extra year would be provided to those participating in spring sports like baseball, softball, track, golf and tennis.
Student-athletes deemed seniors in for the spring of 2020 could play in 2021, while underclassmen who played this spring would be able to apply to the NCAA for a waiver restoring an additional year of eligibility.
The so-called “winter” sports, like men’s and women’s basketball, were not included in the extension because regular-season play had concluded for the most part, bringing an end to many schools’ seasons.
University of Southern Mississippi athletic director Jeremy McClain, who had kept a finger on the pulse of the NCAA’s intentions, had expected the organization to extend eligibility if the spring sports’ season was cancelled.
“The NCAA is going to give a year of eligibility back to spring sports,” McClain said earlier this month. “They’ve basically said, ‘Here’s what we want to do, and that’s to give this year back to our spring sports’ athletes,’ and that’s great.”
Potentially, not so great: The action, voted upon by the NCAA Division I council Monday, would require each individual school to provide the extra funding for any seniors deciding to stay and play an extra year.
According to the Associated Press, the NCAA action allows each school to determine how much scholarship money would be made available to returning seniors, ranging from nothing to as much as the athlete had been receiving.
The NCAA action will allow a one-year expansion of rosters and scholarships to accommodate any returning seniors as well as the incoming signing class.
After the 2021 spring concludes, the usual NCAA parameters for eligibility would return, as well as the roster and scholarship restrictions applicable to each sport.
Student-athletes typically have five years to complete four years of eligibility.
The extra expenses come at a time when programs will be dealing with a potential revenue pinch caused not only by the cancellations of the spring athletic calendar but the shuttering of college basketball’s postseason tournament.
The cancellation of March Madness led the NCAA to cut distributions to member schools by a combined $375 million.
“We had long discussions around the fact that this does not avoid substantially difficult circumstances, but what we felt was important was to localize that decision-making and to ensure that we were as permissive as possible," University of Pennsylvania athletic director/council chairwomn Grace Calhoun told the Associated Press.
“At the end of the day, each institution is going to have to figure out what it can do.”
According to the Associated Press, schools will be able to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility in 2020-21.
McClain said USM will deal with whatever issues might be created.
“There’s a long list of things we’re going to have to work through, and we will,” McClain said. “I think the most important thing is that, especially with the spring sports that haven’t started, is that they get that year of eligibility back.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.