After the NCAA's announcement Thursday that all winter and spring championships would be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Iowa senior Allison Wahrman knew she had to do something to help student athletes.
Wahrman, a member of the Hawkeyes' track and field team, and thousands of other seniors across the country had their final year of NCAA eligibility come to a screeching halt with the decision.
"It was heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking," she told Yahoo Sports. "I only started throwing two years ago, and I was just starting to develop into an elite athlete. I still haven't processed yet that I may have competed in my last meet."
Coaches, athletic directors and athletes began making phone calls and posting on social media asking if outgoing seniors could be granted another year of eligibility. The question prompted Wahrman to create a petition on Change.org.
"Due to the Coronavirus, many NCAA student-athletes have been stripped of a year of eligibility before they were even able to compete," the petition said. "All of which, have been training for countless hours in order to achieve their personal and athletic goals. We understand why the NCAA are taking these precautions and believe that the issue is bigger than sports. However, having a year of eligibility taken away from these dedicated athletes simply is not right. If you are an NCAA student-athlete, or support NCAA athletics, we urge you to sign this petition in order to allow the NCAA to give back this year of eligibility to student-athletes."
As of Friday afternoon, the petition had 100,000 digital signatures within 20 hours of Wahrman posting it.
With the request to allow seniors to return to finish their final seasons, Wahrman understands this would affect the scholarship limits placed on each sport.
"One option would be that they guarantee returning seniors their scholarships and it doesn't affect the people coming in," Wahrman said. "It would cost a lot of money, but I think it would be fair to the seniors."
Wahrman also suggested the NCAA could grant seniors another year of eligibility but not force schools to give them scholarship money, although the cost might keep some student athletes from returning.
College athletics are among the many sports affected around by the globe by the coronavirus. In the U.S., the NBA, NHL and MLS have suspended their seasons until further notice. MLB delayed the start of its season by two weeks, which was set to open on March 26.
The World Health Organization declared a pandemic on Wednesday, and there are more than 135,400 confirmed cases of the virus globally across at least 111 countries.