NCAA grants an additional year of eligibility to spring sport athletes

Decision receives mixed reviews, questions regarding financial aid

The Division I Council of the National Collegiate Athletic Association made the decision on March 30 to allow schools “to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility” for athletes whose seasons were canceled as a result of COVID-19.


While good news for some, the decision raises questions and concerns for many athletes who will not have the opportunity to compete for an additional season. Winter sport athletes, many of whom were in the midst of their conference tournaments when the cancellations took place, will not be granted an additional year of eligibility.


Portland State men’s basketball would have played in the second round of the Big Sky Conference tournament on March 12, had the tournament not been canceled the same day. 


In addition to the cancellation of all conference tournaments, the NCAA made the decision to cancel the 2020 NCAA Division 1 basketball tournaments for both men and women, the tournaments that decide the national champion for men’s and women’s college basketball.


Besides bringing in a substantial chunk of the NCAA’s yearly income—think hundreds of millions of dollars for the men’s tournament alone—the NCAA tournament can be the best opportunity a college athlete with aspirations of playing professional basketball has to showcase their talents on the national stage and increase their draft stock prior to entering the NBA or WNBA.


As a result of the cancellations, many collegiate athletes played their final game without ever knowing it, and the opportunity for one last tournament run was taken from them. 


The decision has forced athletes across the country to reconsider their collegiate and post-college plans.


According to Haily Bartz, a senior softball player for the University of Nebraska Omaha, “You have your life planned out and then this kind of pushes everything back another year. At the same time, it’s really hard to pass up because it’s a game of love.”


While it is true that the majority of winter sport athletes were able to complete the entirety of their respective regular seasons—a luxury that spring sport athletes did not have—it is impossible to measure the value a tournament run could have had for each school and their individual athletes. 


The decision to grant an additional year of eligibility to spring sport athletes raised questions surrounding financial aid and how this added year will impact the financial aid packages not only for those students granted an extra year of eligibility, but the winter and fall sport athletes who were not, and the general student population as well. 


The NCAA is a separate entity from universities across the country, with separate financial constraints and obligations. It’s one thing for the NCAA to make this decision, but it’s another entirely for universities to accommodate this eligibility. 


The NCAA did not guarantee financial aid to current seniors who choose to return for another year. The amount of scholarship money each senior athlete who would have graduated will receive will be determined by the school they attend.


“We had long discussions around the fact that this does not avoid substantially difficult circumstances,” said Division I Council Chairperson Grace Calhoun following the NCAA’s decision. “At the end of the day, each institution is going to have to figure out what it can do.” 


The NCAA stated, “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.”


Additionally, members of the Division I Council have 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.” A complete explanation of NCAA accommodations and guidelines can be found on their website.


How this will affect the financial aid packages of individual universities and students is currently unclear.


Financial Aid services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


To the Portland State community and any collegiate athletes who wish to share, Vanguard wants to hear your thoughts on how the NCAA’s decision has impacted you or someone you know. Questions, comments or concerns, we want your voice to be heard.


Please email us your thoughts at [email protected]. Selected submissions will be published alongside our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on PSU.