NCAA votes to grant spring sports athletes extra year of eligibility

Georgia baseball-UGA-Cam Shepherd
Georgia senior shortstop Cam Shepherd is eligible to return for another season under a new measure passed by the NCAA Division I Council on Monday.

ATHENS — The Division I Council voted on Monday to permit schools to allow their respective spring sport athletes an extra season of competition and another year of eligibility.

Winter sports athletes, however, were not granted the extension. Most or all of their regular seasons were completed, with the notable exception of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The remaining winter sports championships, along with the spring sports championships, were canceled on March 12.

Immediately, school administrators from around the nation were in agreement something must be done for the spring sports athletes.

The Division I Council set to work on a plan that would serve the best interests of the schools and the student-athletes, leading to Monday’s vote.

Per the NCAA release:

“Division I rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period. The Council’s decision allows schools to self-apply waivers to restore one of those seasons of competition for student-athletes who had competed while eligible in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 spring season.”

The much-anticipated eligibility announcement came on Monday, with much of the world still at a standstill where sports and group gatherings were concerned on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

Financial guidelines were granted some relief per the new measures. This will allow spring sports programs to carry more scholarship athletes on the teams to account for incoming signees.

More good news came for the Georgia baseball program when the NCAA voted to increase the sport’s roster limit to accommodate returning players. The current limit is 35.

The Bulldogs, 14-4 and ranked No. 2 when the season was suspended, were expected to contend for the SEC championship.

Indeed, for the first time in school history, UGA had already sold out its allotment of season baseball tickets.

The Bulldogs have four seniors. Starting shortstop Cam Shepherd and first baseman Patrick Sullivan are two of the seniors who might now return.

One key provision within that roster expansion, however, is that schools do not have to provide the same amount of student aid to the returning seniors granted the eligibility extension.

UGA baseball coach Scott Stricklin said in a school release there are still some issues that need to be clarified, such as the 11.7 scholarship limit the sport currently operates under.

“I am pleased that the schools have been allowed to grant student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility,” Stricklin said. “However, we still need to get some clarity on how the 35-man roster and 11.7 scholarship rules apply as baseball is the only spring sport with such a limit.

“There is some flexibility that the schools have, and those decisions have not been made at this time. We’re all working through it, but bottom line, this was the right thing to do for the student-athletes.”​

It will be up to the Division I schools to assume financial responsibilities to account for the additional scholarship positions.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn, said in the NCAA.org release.

“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.”

 

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