INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA Division I Council on March 30 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 and 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.
App State sports affected by these changes are baseball, men’s golf, women’s golf, softball, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s outdoor track & field and women’s outdoor track & field.
“The Sun Belt supports the decision made by the NCAA Division I Council to grant an additional year of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes who were affected by the cancellation of their season due to the coronavirus outbreak,” Sun Belt Conference commissioner Keith Gill said in a statement. “We will work with our membership and collaborate with the NCAA to determine how best to implement this resolution. The interest and wellbeing of our Sun Belt student-athletes are at the core of our mission. We believe this is the correct course of action because it’s another opportunity for our student-athletes to have a complete competitive season.”
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, the 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.