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NCAA Grants Spring Athletes Extra Year of Eligibility, Denies Basketball and Winter Sports

The NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee voted Monday to grant spring athletes an extra year of eligibility after the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring college sports in 2020.

Winter sports were not included in the extended eligibility, which excludes basketball players from earning an extra year, per the NCAA.

"Division I rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period," the NCAA wrote in a statement on Monday. "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."

All spring athletes will be able to return to their respective schools in 2020-21, though programs will be forced to offer "offer less (or zero) aid or match what they provided this year," according to The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach

Earlier this month, the committee agreed it was appropriate to provide eligibility relief for spring sports and said it would reach an official decision later.

The idea of giving spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility came with some logistical hurdles, such as how such a proposal would affect roster size limitations and programs' financial situations. Last week, the NCAA announced a massive slashing of revenue distribution to member schools for 2020, a response to lost revenue during the shutdown of sports, including the cash cow that is the men's NCAA tournament.  

Earlier this month, the NCAA canceled March Madness and all winter and spring championships. The decision sparked an outcry from players, coaches and athletic directors, particularly seniors who had their final seasons come to a sudden halt. The move even prompted Iowa track and field senior Allison Wahrman to create a petition asking the NCAA to grant seniors another year of eligibility.

On March 20, Division II spring-sport athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility.

College athletics are among the many sports affected around the globe by the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S., the NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB have suspended or postponed their seasons indefinitely. The U.S. has the most confirmed cases (over 143,530) in the world, and it is not known yet if or how the pandemic could affect college sports in the fall.