ONE BIG DO-OVER

Baseball AmericaMay/June 2020

ONE BIG DO-OVER
The NCAA Division I Council granted spring sports athletes an extra year of eligibility
TEDDY CAHILL

On March 30, the NCAA’s Division I Council approved a proposal to give eligibility relief to all spring sports athletes, effectively granting athletes an extra year of college eligibility to account for the cancellation of the 2020 season caused by the coronavirus pandemic. With the vote, Division I joined all other collegiate sports’ governing bodies in granting extra eligibility due to the loss of the 2020 season. Division II, Division III, NAIA and the National Junior College Athletics Association previously ruled in favor of eligibility relief.

For players who already had eligibility remaining after the 2020 season, their aid will be required to remain at the same level. For 2020 seniors, the NCAA will leave it up to individual schools on a case-by-case basis to determine how much aid to offer athletes. They will be able to offer less aid than they offered a player in 2020 or match it, but not exceed it. Within one program that could mean that one player gets offered a spot back, but none of his scholarship money, while another player is brought back at 100% of what he received in 2020.

The Council also adjusted rules to ease baseball’s restrictions of a maximum 35 players on the roster, a maximum of 27 players on scholarship and a maximum of 11.7 scholarships split among those 27 players. In effect, returning seniors will not count toward any of the caps.

The Council’s decision affirms the position of the Division I Council Coordination Committee. On March 13, the day after the NCAA canceled the College World Series along with every other winter and spring championship, the coordination committee came out in support in principle of eligibility relief. A week later, it doubled down in a statement. The Student-Athlete Advisory Council also came out publicly in favor of eligibility relief on the eve of the Council’s vote, and Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey publicly backed it as well.

The final decision lay with the Council, which is primarily composed of athletic directors, representing every conference. In an uncertain financial time, there was a lot of apprehension before the vote that they would not see it the same way.

USA Today estimated that granting seniors an extra year of eligibility would cost Power Five Conference schools anywhere from $500,000 to $900,000. Smaller schools might still incur costs of up to $400,000. Costs to grant every spring athlete an extra year of eligibility will rise even higher.

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May/June 2020