NCAA to give spring sport athletes extra year of eligibility


The NCAA will permit spring sport athletes — such as baseball, softball and lacrosse players — who had their seasons shortened by the coronavirus outbreak to have an additional year of eligibility.

The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to give spring sport athletes regardless of their year in school a way to get back the season they lost, but did not guarantee financial aid to the current crop of seniors if they return to play next year.

Winter sports, such as basketball and hockey, were not included in the decision, declining to extend eligibility in sports where all or much of the regular seasons were completed.

The Division I Council is made up of college sports administrators representing all 32 D-I conferences, plus two members of the student-athlete advisory committee.

How much scholarship money will be made available to each athlete whose college career would have ended this spring will be determined by the athlete’s school. The amount could range from nothing to as much the athlete received had been receiving.

“We had long discussions around the fact that this does not avoid substantially difficulty circumstances, but what we felt was important was to localize decision-making and to ensure that we were as permissive as possible,” said Penn athleic director Grace Calhoun, who is council chairwoman.

Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.

Roster and scholarship limits will be adjusted next season to fit returning athletes along with incoming freshman.

Katie Hoeg, an All-American lacrosse player from North Carolina, said she has a teaching and coaching job lined up after she graduates this spring, but now plans to return for another season as a graduate student.

“I’m choosing my passion,” she said. “I can’t imagine ending my lacrosse career the way this season is going. I was pretty hopeful this would be a possibility. I’m really excited this decision has been made.”

NCAA Division I rules allow athletes to have four seasons of competition in five-year period. Schools will be allowed to apply for waivers to restore one of those seasons for any athlete who competed while eligible in the spring season shortened by COVID-19 in 2020. But after the 2021 spring season scholarship and roster limits will apply to those athletes.