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NCAA to vote on spring eligibility relief on March 30

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

The NCAA's Division I Council announced it will discuss and vote on March 30 for eligibility relief for student-athletes whose seasons were cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Friday’s news release, the NCAA Division I Coordination Committee agreed eligibility relief should be given to student-athletes in spring sports, such as baseball and softball.

Future eligibility for spring sports athletes is set to be determined on March 30.

There was no mention of similar relief for winter sports like men’s and women’s basketball, whose postseasons were cut short.

The committee said it supports giving schools a framework for providing relief where they have the "autonomy to make their own decisions in the best interest of their campus, conference and student-athletes.”

That sets up the possibility schools could choose not to award an extra year of eligibility to the spring sport student-athletes who were impacted the most by the cancellations.

“The coordination committee recognizes that this local decision-making is made more challenging by the implications of COVID-19,” council chair Grace Calhoun said in a statement. “However, providing a broader regulatory relief framework will allow campuses and conferences to make decisions they believe are in their collective best interest.”

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has previously spoken in support of providing an extra year of eligibility to seniors in sports with canceled seasons.

“But it is complicated, right?” Manuel said last week. “You have basketball teams that have played 90-95% of their season or more. Do those seniors get an extra year? Do the spring seasons get an extra year?”

While most agree allowing eligibility relief for spring sports is the right thing to do, it would create issues with scholarships and roster limits. And that doesn’t include a bevy of other details that would need to be ironed out, like financial aid ramifications.

According to Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman, one idea being kicked around by the Big Ten is the possibility of moving the spring seasons to the fall and finishing them then.

“This is a time where it's really important that we think creatively and outside the box,” Beekman said this week. “One is to just simply give those students, where the stoppage would have cost them a year, to give them an additional year. … I think there's also been some conversation about, is it possible — if this (virus) passes successfully and we're back to sort of a full-functioning environment in June or July — is it possible to have some abbreviated spring sport schedule in the fall?”

The NCAA's coordination committee also announced schools will be permitted to reimburse student-athletes for expenses related to the cancellation of foreign trips and recruits for expenses incurred for canceled official and unofficial recruiting visits. The NCAA previously suspended all in-person recruiting activity through at least April 15.

The NCAA’s Division II and Division III administrative committees granted spring student-athletes an additional season of eligibility last week.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins