NCAA extends eligibility for spring-sport seniors

The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to spring-sport athletes while ruling against such relief for winter-sport athletes, including basketball players.

The move by the Division I council on Monday was made in response to the coronavirus outbreak that wiped out the entire spring-sports season. Winter sports were largely done with their regular seasons when the shutdown commenced on March 12, but postseason events, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, were canceled.

March Madness, NCAA Tournament
Basketball players will not receive an extra year of eligibility. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

A ruling on how to handle the scholarships for players receiving an extra year of eligibility will be left to schools and conferences to decide. Players may be granted full scholarships, partial scholarships or no money at all, with schools ruling on a player-by-player basis.

The NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund will be available to help pay for some of the additional scholarships.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said M. Grace Calhoun, the council chair and Penn athletic director. “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.”

The only sport that had its roster limit increased due to the COVID-19-induced shutdown was baseball, though the exact extent of the change wasn’t revealed in the council’s initial public statement.

Earlier Monday, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for the Power 5 conferences had lobbied the NCAA to extend an additional year of eligibility to all spring-sports athletes and to winter-sports athletes who qualified for postseason competition that was not completed.

The student leaders from the Pac-12, Southeastern Conference, Big 12, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference also sought help from the NCAA to provide housing and food for athletes impacted by COVID-19 campus closures.

“If the NCAA merely focuses on eligibility relief and does not aid those who are unsafe and unable to pay for food and shelter, then we have already failed our peers as collegiate athlete leaders,” they wrote.

However, it was unclear if the NCAA acted on that proposal.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)