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NCAA Grants Extra Year of Eligibility for Spring Sports, But Not Winter

Due to the coronavirus pandemic that has ended all college (and professional) sports for the time being, the NCAA has announced that they will grant an extra year of eligibility for student-athletes participating in spring sports this year, but they declined to do the same for winter sports.

Speaking with reporters earlier in the month, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith expressed his desire to see student-athletes in spring sports granted an extra year — or at least a semester, but was not as enthused by the prospects of doing the same for winter sport athletes, who finished the bulk of their seasons.

Scholarship allowances will be expanded in the sports affected.

The NCAA is leaving the economics of this plan to the individual schools, where the ruling has stated that the schools don’t necessarily have to pay for the players using their extra year. Those athletes can instead utilize the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund if needed.

Here is the entire release from the NCAA.

Division I Council extends eligibility for student-athletes impacted by COVID-19

Schools can authorize an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of 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.