NCAA Division I Spring Sports Athletes Get Extra Year Of Eligibility
Athletes in five spring sports at West Virginia University will receive an additional year of competition and eligibility after the NCAA Division I Council voted on Monday to grant that benefit to all Division I institutions. WVU student athletes in baseball, golf, women’s tennis, women’s track & field and women’s rowing will get the additional year after the 2020 spring season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NCAA will not extend eligibility for winter sports, including basketball, gymnastics, wrestling or swimming & diving, which mostly had completed their regular seasons but saw postseason tournaments cancelled.
So as not to affect scholarships for incoming freshmen, the NCAA will allow schools to carry more players on scholarship than current limits allow. Baseball’s current scholarship limit is 11.7, golf is 4.5, women’s tennis is eight, women’s track and field is 18 and women’s rowing is 20.
All of those sports with the exception of tennis are “equivalency” sports, which means they can, and most often do, award partial scholarships to student-athletes. Women’s tennis is the exception, with eight full scholarships typically allowed per academic year.
West Virginia’s online rosters in those five sports showed a total of 18 seniors who will now have the option to return for another season of competition if they desire. However, it is important to note that every participant in a spring sport is eligible for the additional season if he or she chooses to employ it.
Schools are not bound to offer the same level of scholarship money to returning seniors that they were awarded for the 2019-20 academic year. The decision on how much scholarship aid will be provided to each senior student-athlete is up to individual schools. This provision does not apply to returning freshmen, sophomores or juniors.
The announcement carries the potential to increase scholarship and other costs for institutions at a time when disbursements from the NCAA will be much less than half of the budgeted $600 million projected at the start of the season. The NCAA noted that money from the Student Assistance Fund can be tapped to help with those costs, but no details on how those funds would be employed. SAF money is typically available to help athletes in emergency situations.
Other spring sports affected by the ruling, but in which WVU does not field teams, include softball, lacrosse, men’s volleyball, beach volleyball and women’s water polo.
NCAA Statement On Extended Eligibility
The Division I Council on Monday voted to allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility.
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.
Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.
Division I rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period. The Council’s decision allows schools to self-apply waivers to restore one of those seasons of competition for student-athletes who had competed while eligible in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 spring season
The Council also will allow schools to self-apply a one-year extension of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes, effectively extending each student’s five-year “clock” by a year. This decision was especially important for student-athletes who had reached the end of their five-year clock in 2020 and saw their seasons end abruptly.
“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”
Winter sports were not included in the decision. Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed.
The Council also increased the roster limit in baseball for student-athletes impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the only spring sport with such a limit.