The NCAA Vote On Eligibility Relief For Winter And Spring Athletes Results In A Split Decision
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NCAA Grants Eligibility Relief For Spring Athletes, But Not For Winter

The NCAA has handed down a ruling on eligibility waivers for winter and spring sport athletes after the COVID-19 pandemic forced widespread cancellations of seasons earlier this month.

All members of spring sports teams will get an extra year of eligibility, while winter athletes whose seasons were cut short during or right before postseason play will not be granted an extra year, the NCAA Division I Council announced Monday after voting on the issue.

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

Notre Dame baseball players celebrating
Spring sport athletes were given another year of eligibility, the NCAA announced Monday. (UND.com)

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For winter sport seniors and graduate students, their careers are officially over, confirming the assumed outcome. Spring sport seniors can return in 2021, if they choose to and are academically eligible.

Additionally, the NCAA adjusted scholarship limits to allow teams to carry more players, accounting for incoming freshmen who had previously signed letters of intent to play next season and seniors who choose to come back for the extra year granted to them.

Because of the financial impact of an increased roster, the NCAA allowed schools to give players the chance to return for next season without needing to guarantee them the same amount of scholarship money they were given for the 2019-20 academic year. The caveat applies only to players who would have exhausted their eligibility after this spring.

The ruling also permits schools to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for players who choose to come back for the 2020-21 academic year.

Both votes went as expected. The NCAA announced earlier this month that the committee agreed spring athletes should get another year, but supported individual institutions making decisions “in the best interest of their campus, conference and student-athletes.”

Notre Dame has 85 seniors and graduate students across its 11 spring sports who now have the option of continuing their careers.

In the days following the cancelation of the NCAA Tournament and conference tournament, the idea of giving college basketball seniors circulated on social media with a few coaches supporting it, but was not considered a realistic possibility.

“Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed,” the NCAA’s statement read.

Notre Dame women’s basketball’s season was completed before any cancelations or suspensions of sporting events. The Irish lost to Pittsburgh 67-65 in the ACC Tournament March 4. They were 13-18 and not headed for a postseason event.

Notre Dame men’s basketball's last game was March 11, an 80-58 win over Boston College in its ACC Tournament opener. Like every other conference in the country, the ACC canceled its tournament the following day. That victory became seniors Rex Plfueger T.J. Gibbs and John Mooney’s final game. Head coach Mike Brey was disappointed it had to end that way, but told BlueandGold.com before the ruling was announced that he was ultimately in favor of not granting another year.

“Selfishly, can we get Johnny Mooney back for another year, of course, I’d sign up for that,” Brey said. “But I just don’t think that’s right and I think most coaches feel the same way.”

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