NCAA grants waiver for all spring-sports athletes to receive extra year of eligibility
NCAA Division I athletes in spring sports will be given an extra season of eligibility to make up for the one that was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the association announced Monday.
But the decision by the NCAA Division I Council, which handles day-to-day rules making for the association’s top-level schools, will allow the schools to determine how much scholarship aid to give next year to athletes who were in what would have been their final season of eligibility this year.
However, the Council did agree to adjust scholarship limits to account for incoming athletes and athletes who decide to stay for an extra season.
Athletes in winter sports will not get an additional season of eligibility, the Council decided. Winter sports NCAA championships, including the basketball tournaments, were cancelled because of the pandemic.
The Council’s eight-member leadership group signaled its position 2½ weeks ago, when it issued a statement saying that “eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I athletes who participated in spring sports.”
On Monday, the full Council faced the prospect of several alternatives: Covering athletes in winter and spring sports. Covering only athletes who are presently in their senior year. Covering athletes in all classes.
The prospect of taking any action would have been difficult under the best economic circumstances. But with athletics department revenues — like those for higher education, as a whole — under present strain and additional threat in the future, it could be very difficult.
Giving an additional season of eligibility just to seniors on spring-sports teams could cost public schools in the Power Five conferences anywhere from $500,000 to $900,000, a recent USA TODAY analysis of schools’ financial reports to the NCAA showed.
Schools outside the Power Five would face lower amounts, but FCS schools that have relatively robust spring sports offerings could be looking at a cost of around $400,000.
On the revenue side, the NCAA’s governing board of college presidents decided last week that the association’s direct distribution to Division I conferences and schools this year will be $225 million, rather than the planned $600 million. But those amounts constitute roughly 2% to 5% of athletics departments’ operating revenue.
Much bigger problems could come in ticket revenue and donations, matters would get much worse if the football season is affected.
Football drives not only ticket sales but also television contracts, the value of schools’ local multi-media/marketing rights deals; shoe-and-apparel agreements and payments that some customers must pay for the right to lease suites or buy prime tickets. Guarantee-game payments, a feature of many early-season matchups, also could be impacted.
Earlier this week, Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte acknowledged all of those issues, but said the athletes should come first.
“There’s ramifications for everything,” Del Conte said during an interview with Austin radio station KTXX-FM, The Horn. “The economy has dipped, what does that mean? … We know it’s a tough time for everybody.
“So we’ve got to do things to make sure that we do things right by our student-athletes. I’m in favor of either proposal (to cover seniors or athletes in all classes). Doesn’t make a difference to me, as long as our kids have a chance to come back.”