April 1, 2020
The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to grant an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes in spring sports whose seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA’s decision will extend the eligibility of all spring-sport student-athletes not just seniors whose careers would have ended after the cancellation of their seasons and will allow schools to expand their rosters beyond current scholarship limits to account for incoming recruits and seniors who were expected to leave.
The NCAA will leave it up to each school to decide whether to grant seniors in spring sports less or equal financial aid next year, compared to what they received this year. The NCAA said in a statement that the financial aid flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted their eligibility in 2019-20.
The waivers will be applied for student-athletes competing in spring sports: baseball, softball, tennis, golf, outdoor track and field, lacrosse, rowing, men’s volleyball, beach volleyball and women’s water polo. The decision does not include winter sports such as basketball, hockey, swimming and diving, and gymnastics.
Ohio State’s Greg Beals said Tuesday he isn’t worried about 2021, when the 35-man roster limit will be relaxed to accommodate seniors choosing to return for another season.
The problem comes in 2022, when the limit is back in force. Beals has 11 freshmen coming in this fall, and they will join nine players who will be reclassified as freshmen because the 2021 season ended abruptly March 12.
“So, I have a freshman class of 20, and that class is going to stay with me for the next four years,” Beals said. “So, there’s some challenge there. We’re going to be able to work through it. There’s going to be some tough conversations while the roster is thick and strong. The lineup card still only has nine slots on it.”
The NCAA allows a total of 11.7 scholarships per team in Division I baseball, and it’s required they be divided among 27 players. Eight walk-ons are permitted, taking the roster maximum to 35. Baseball is the only spring sport with a roster limit.
Seniors who choose to return in 2021 will be allowed to have the same scholarship amount they had this year, less or none. Returning seniors’ scholarships won’t count against the 11.7 limit.
Looming logjams because of the extended eligibility could force coaches to sign smaller recruiting classes and nudge underperforming players to transfer or quit.