The NCAA’s Division I Council voted Monday to grant student-athletes in spring sports an additional season of eligibility.
The ruling allows for spring sport programs to exceed current scholarships limits, and baseball teams can surpass their current roster limit — the only spring sport with such a limit — because seniors will have to coexist on rosters with incoming freshman classes.
At the same time, it was not mandated that institutions provide returning seniors with the same scholarship amount for the 2021 season. So they have a spot on the roster, but they are not guaranteed any scholarship money.
“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 NCAA statement read. “This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.”
The NCAA added that schools can dip into its Student Assistance Fund to help pay for scholarships of students who end up taking advantage of the additional year.
“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” council chair M. Grace Calhoun, the athletic director at Penn, said in a statement. “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.”
Monday’s ruling for eligibility relief applies to spring athletes of all classes, essentially extending their five-year window to six to complete four seasons.
Athletes in winter sports, however, will not receive eligibility relief, because their seasons were mostly completed.