NCAA grants spring athletes extra year of eligibility due to coronavirus cancellations

Schools to make decision on how much aid they award


Luis Platero

Sac State sophomore shortstop Shea Graves picks up a ball against California Baptist at Shea Stadium on Friday, Feb. 7. The NCAA voted Monday to extend eligibility for spring season student-athletes whose seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Robyn Dobson, sports editor

The NCAA announced Monday that council members voted to grant spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility after their seasons were canceled due to coronavirus concerns. 

Talks of eligibility relief for student-athletes began on March 13, less than 24 hours after the NCAA had announced that all remaining winter and spring championships would be canceled. 

The Sacramento State Athletics Department announced on March 18 that all spring sports would be canceled for the remainder of the academic year. 

RELATED: NCAA begins talks for eligibility relief amid coronavirus concerns

Rules currently limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition over a five year period. The Division I Council’s decision allows schools to apply a one year extension of eligibility for all spring athletes who had their season shortened due to the COVID-19 outbreak to extend the five year period by a year.  

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“We support the decision by the NCAA and its governance process to do what’s best for student-athletes across the country,” said Mark Orr, director of athletics at Sac State in a statement. “We are happy that they have allowed for some flexibility for student-athletes to continue to participate. With the announcement, we will begin working with our staff and student-athletes on how to handle this situation.”

The council also voted to adjust financial aid limits to allow teams to carry more student-athletes on scholarship to account for seniors who decide to stay for their final year of eligibility and incoming recruits. However, it is the school’s decision to provide continued aid to student-athletes whose eligibility ended during the 2019-2020 season. 

The NCAA is not requiring schools to provide the same level of aid that was awarded during the 2019-2020 season. 

If seniors at Sac State who are on track to graduate this spring choose to use this extra year of eligibility, they will need to apply and be accepted to a graduate program on campus, according to Assistant Athletics Director Brian Berger. 

RELATED: ‘I was at a loss for words’: 47 Sac State senior athletes to miss their final season

This has led to some reservations among senior athletes about whether they want to continue or begin their post collegiate career instead.  

“I think this is something that all student-athletes deserve,” said senior track runner Tristen Thomson. “I feel like having another year of eligibility is fair, but very inconvenient. Many seniors have plans after graduating, and now this puts a serious dilemma on my future.” 

Winter sports were not included in the eligibility relief talks as much or all of their seasons were completed prior to the cancellations.

The NCAA also announced they would be increasing the roster limit for baseball teams. Division I teams are restricted to 35 players once their season begins. Any senior who chooses to return will not count against the limit. Baseball is the only spring sport to have such a limit. 

Additional reporting by Jason Gallardo.