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NCAA Division 1 Council Votes Yes to Eligibility Relief for Spring Sports

The NCAA makes a landmark ruling affecting all spring sports athletes

NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

This afternoon around 1 PM Pacific time, the NCAA Division 1 Council began voting on the possibility for all seniors in spring sports to retain their eligibility for the 2021 calendar year due to cancellation of spring sports because of COVID19.

Before that, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee sent out a detailed letter explaining their needs and wants

Numerous student athletes voiced their opinion in favor of getting another year of eligibility on social media before the voting results came out.

Nicole Auerbach of the Athletic is reporting that the NCAA has approved of granting eligibility relief for EVERYONE in spring sports

The NCAA has made official via press release

From the press release:

“Members also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility who decide to stay. 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. This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.

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.”

What does this mean for the Ducks and spring sports in general?

Everyone has another year of eligibility restored if they so choose to keep on playing on the collegiate level. Baseball will be impacted the most as only 11.7 scholarships was the traditional limit but those seniors who would have exhausted eligibility get another year and the programs don’t have to count it against the limit. They can choose to pay it or in essence, make the players count like walk-ons but still pay for the scholarship another way.

Oregon softball and baseball get much needed boosts in year two of Coach Lombardi’s tenure and Coach W’s rookie year. Now, the players have the option to move onto professional careers so keep in mind, teams will be mindful of that choice as they plot out transfers and the like.

Oregon baseball had a scheduled five seniors and redshirt seniors at the time of cancellation while softball had three. A total of 31 seniors across the Ducks spring sports landscape are affected.

Last week, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA reached an agreement to severely restrict the earning potential of players on a global scale in order to keep each other happy. The agreement was that MLB has the right to restrict the 2020 MLB Draft to just five rounds and the 2021 Draft to 20 instead of the usual 40. Any undrafted players would have gotten a maximum of $20,000 when minor league players often have to share EVERYTHING and still have to work second jobs just to scrimp by. This isn’t even factoring in the financial impact in a COVID19 impacted society. Like a majority of professional sports, the chasm between the obscenely rich, middle class, and the poor in baseball only keeps on growing as teams actively look to keep wages down in line with revenue streams (just take a look at MLB free agency prior to 2019).

At least in college, athletes get access to something like top of the line facilities, food, and some stipend money to call their own unlike minor league baseball where sharing is often the norm. Will it mean more athletes decided to return to college and delaying that all important second contract by another year?

Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball speculates that the one time transfer freebie (with 0 restrictions) rule might be a real thing this summer

What does this mean for Athletic Departments?

Oregon and the other schools can choose what to give returning athletes so it’s not all peaches and cream for the athlete. It’s either 0 or whatever the amount was had COVID-19 not affected things. I’m not sure any school wants to take the PR hit of not paying anything in the wake of global pandemic affect so many people. Revenue from the NCAA is already taking a massive loss as programs around the organization stand to lose a purported near $400 million for cancelling the NCAA tournaments. Even for a multibillion dollar “corporation, that’s nothing to sneeze at, particularly departments at smaller programs who desperately need the revenue to keep the doors open. At programs like Oregon, where Athletic Directors like Rob Mullens are notoriously penny pinching and come from accounting backgrounds, the purse strings will be tightened even more with the specter of football season being postponed if not outright cancelled grows by the day.

Unfortunately, winter sports like basketball were not included as expected in this landmark case as the council thoughts were that those sports completed a majority of their seasons.