NCAA weighs more eligibility for sports cut short by virus

Sports

FILE – In this March 6, 2020, file photo, Purdue Fort Wayne’s Rachel Everson connects for a hit during an NCAA softball game against UMass Lowell in Clarksville, Tenn. The NCAA Division I Council is scheduled Monday, March 30, 2020, to vote on providing another year of eligibility to spring sport athletes, such as baseball, softball and lacrosse players, who had their seasons wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

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The NCAA Division I Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to allow another year of eligibility for spring sport athletes such as baseball, softball and lacrosse players, who had their seasons wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

Providing similar relief to winter sport athletes, such as basketball and hockey players and wrestlers, will also be considered. According to a memo recently sent to college sports administrators from the NCAA, there does not appear to be support for that.

“(W)inter sports had either concluded their regular season competition or substantially concluded their regular season competition,” said the memo, a portion of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Division II has already approved legislation to provide an extra season of eligibility and financial aid for its spring sport athletes, according to the memo.

Around Division I, conference-level discussions on the subject of restoring eligibility have been ongoing.

The Division I Council has representatives from all 32 conferences. After it votes, the Division I Board of Directors, made up of mostly university presidents and chancellors, will have the opportunity to weigh in and could kick it back to the council for further consideration.

While there is momentum toward giving spring athletes another year of eligibility, there are plenty of administrators with reservations.

“I know I could capably argue either side of it,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Thursday during a conference call with reporters.

NCAA bylaws regarding scholarship limits would have to be worked around, which becomes especially tricky in the many sports where most players do not receive full scholarships. Paying for those extra scholarships is potentially costly for schools.

Bowlsby said with so much unknown regarding the outbreak and when sports will be able to resume, delaying a decision on giving back eligibility might be the best option.

“I worry that with the uncertainty of our current circumstances, we might find ourselves with a disruption in the fall or winter next year due to a rebound in the coronavirus,” he said. “If we have that sort of disruption again, then are we going to offer fall-sport athletes another year?”

He added: “I really think as much as everybody wants to know if they’re going to get another year, I think we would be well-served by waiting a period of time to make the decisions.”

Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill said he expected the conference to finalize its position Friday during a conference call with athletic directors and university presidents.

“I think our conference is in a place where we’re certainly going to look to try to provide some relief in that position. Those students have been through a lot,” Gill said. “Trying to provide them an opportunity to be as whole as they can with regard to their competition opportunities is something that we are supportive of.”

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