Monday the Division I council voted to allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility.
This ruling goes for all student-athletes that had their spring seasons cut short due to the COVID0-19 pandemic.
The council never has easy decisions to make but this one is likely the most challenging they’ve ever faced.
Looking at it from the outside, most spring sport athletes were robbed of a season due to something out of their control. The easy solution would be to give them all, every student-athlete regardless of class, an extra year of eligibility. What about the incoming freshmen? Roster limits? Scholarship limitations? Funds to pay for a roster that would normally be in the thirties but could balloon to 50?
The NCAA Division I Coordination Committee previously released a non-binding opinion on the matter saying it agreed with the NCAA that spring student-athletes should get a year of eligibility back, but it didn’t offer answers to the questions raised above.
That’s where Monday’s meeting and vote came in.
The previous week the NJCAA, the governing body of Division II and Division III athletics ruled that all student-athletes would be given another year of eligibility. This doesn’t pertain to the NCAA or Division I, but it was an interesting decision to look at heading into the DI Council’s vote.
Monday’s vote was in line with the other governing bodies of college athletics and will adjust the financial restrictions on the schools in each sport. It will be up to each coach to decide how much financial aid (scholarship) is divvied to an individual when it comes to seniors. A senior, such as Austin Langworthy or Kirby McMullen, could get more, the same, less or no financial aid, it’s up to the coach and then up to the player to choose to come back to school under those terms.
“The Council’s decision allows schools to self-apply waivers to restore one of those seasons of competition for student-athletes who had competed while eligible in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 spring season,” the council’s statement read.
“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”
What does this mean for Florida? Well, first it gives Florida’s seniors Austin Langworthy, Kirby McMullen and transfer Trey Van Der Weide an opportunity to play another year of college baseball.
Kendall Rogers of D1baseball.com reported that the roster sizes will essentially be scrapped in 2021, trying to make an incredibly tough situation easier on everyone.
The Gators were at the 35-man roster limit in 2020 and have a signing class with 16 players in it already. The MLB Draft, even though it will be shortened to anywhere from 5-10 rounds instead of the normal 40, will likely only take Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich from the roster. Florida’s top-signee Zac Veen will also likely be picked in those rounds and is expected to turn professional. That would put Florida at 48 players on the roster, 45 since returning seniors will not count against a roster.
It’s still a lot of players and only so many innings and games for them to play but the decision by the council was the right one in terms of being fair to the student-athletes that sacrifice so much to play.
The D1 Council also ruled on winter sport athletes, denying them an extra year of eligibility.
“Winter sports were not included in the decision. Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed.”