The NCAA Division I Council voted on Monday to allow schools to provide spring sport student-athletes the opportunity for an extra season of eligibility.
The vote allows schools to apply a one-year extension on the usual limit of four seasons of competition over a five-year period. The official decision comes after council leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for student-athletes affected by COVID-19 on March 13.
“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said Council chair and athletics director M. Grace Calhoun. “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 NCAA also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to allow more scholarships for next year’s recruiting class and student-athletes who decided to stay after losing their last year of eligibility. The Council also increased the roster limit for baseball for student-athletes impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” the statement read. “This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.”
Since the NCAA suspended all spring competition, seniors from all across the country have lobbied for another year of eligibility after the abrupt end of their final collegiate seasons.
Senior Ole Miss tennis players Alexa Bortles and Tim Sankaulen started an Instagram page titled “RedshirtCoronaYear” on March 12 and have since gone viral with over 35,000 followers.
Women’s golf senior Kennedy Swann and softball catcher Autumn Gillespie also said they were open to another year in Oxford for a proper finish to their collegiate careers.
“My coaches have talked to me about possibly coming back for another season, and I told them I would keep an open mind,” Swann said. “I have things in place since I am graduating, but I’m not ruling anything out.”
Winter sport student-athletes will not receive additional eligibility with most of their regular season competition completed before games were suspended.