Eligibility Relief Granted for Spring Athletes, Denied for Winter Players

This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in April 2020.

As expected, the NCAA Division I Council voted on Monday to grant spring athletes an extra year of eligibility but did not do the same for winter athletes who had completed most of their seasons.

This move comes two-and-a-half weeks after the NCAA canceled all spring and winter sports championships due to the coronavirus outbreak. The move will extend the career of many athletes across the country. However, there’s a catch.

Despite being allowed to have an extra season — and in the case of seniors, a return for an extra year — schools will not be forced to grant senior athletes the same level of financial aid they would have received for the 2019-2020 academic year. According to the release, the NCAA is doing so “in a nod to the financial uncertainty faced by higher education.” It is unclear to what extent schools will uphold the previously-held financial aid agreements, but they will not be bound to these scholarships. Per the release, schools will also be authorized to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for these scholarships if necessary. 

Of course, it also remains to be seen how many of these athletes take advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility relief. Last week, The Fordham Ram’s sports team interviewed several Fordham athletes as to whether or not they would do this, and some, like Fordham Baseball outfielder Billy Godrick, were skeptical. 

“My guess is that only a third of all seniors affected nationwide, probably even less, will use the fifth year of eligibility based on a wide variety of different factors such as tuition costs and job opportunities,” Godrick said. “There’s a lot of details that need to be worked out by the NCAA, such as scholarships and expanded roster sizes.”

To that end, the NCAA is increasing the roster limit for baseball, the only spring sport with such a defined limitation. Previously, there has been a limit of 35 players for a college baseball roster; while it is unclear how many players will now be allowed to be on a single roster, the number will be more than 35.

The Division I Council, also as expected, voted down a measure to allow winter athletes the same extensions, as all or most of their regular seasons were completed. Most notably, this means that most men’s basketball teams were unable to complete their conference tournaments, and both men’s and women’s teams were unable to participate in the postseason. 

All spring athletes will get an extra year of eligibility, and senior athletes will get another season. That much is certain; the next question to be answered is how many of these seniors take advantage of this competitive rain check.

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