The NCAA Division I Council has voted to approve an extra year of eligibility for all spring sport athletes.
The Council, a group of athletics directors, athletics administrators, senior women administrators, faculty athletics representatives and student-athletes that represent each Division I conference met for three hours on Monday and officially announced the result of its vote at 6:50 p.m. EST. The decision to grant relief comes 16 days after NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors cancelled all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships, effectively ending all 2020 spring athletics.
The ramifications of this decision will be felt throughout the entirety of athletic programs around the country, as spring sport college seniors are offered the option to return to campus, juniors and underclassmen maintain their class status, and high school seniors still become incoming freshman.
As rosters become overcrowded, the Council has adjusted financial aid regulation to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship. This will account for incoming recruits and seniors who decide to stay. It is expected that the NCAA’s one-time transfer rule will be voted on later this summer.
In addition, as athletic departments are forced to navigate budgets, the vote also provides schools to decide how much financial aid to offer per athlete who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20. This means that a senior athlete on scholarship this season could receive any percentage, all or none of his or her financial aid for next season, determined at the school’s discretion.
To help untangle the web of financial uncertainty, schools will also have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund for scholarships of athletes who elect to use the eligibility relief in 2020-21.
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.
As the 2020 MLB draft is cut to as few as five rounds, and strict caps remain on paying undrafted players, this decision provides juniors with leverage typical to a regular season.
Had the Council decision resulted differently, baseball programs around the nation would have had their hands tied, and Ole Miss would have felt the effects. The junior class would have had to make the difficult decision to take a lowball offer to go pro, or return to college for a senior season and face the same no-leverage situation a full year later. Now they can return to college and be drafted as a junior with leverage in 2021.
The NCAA Division I Council’s ruling does not apply to winter athletes.