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Wisconsin Won't Allow Spring Sport Senior Athletes to Return in 2021

Wisconsin won't allow its senior student-athletes impacted by the coronavirus pandemic to return to their respective teams next season, according to an athletic department statement Thursday to the Wisconsin State Journal's Todd Milewski. 

"What we tried to do was encourage our seniors to go ahead and, if you're going to graduate, graduate and move on with your life," athletic director Barry Alvarez said Wednesday on his monthly radio show on WIBA-AM. "We appreciate everything that you've done. But move forward. The future is in question, and we can't promise you anything."

Alvarez, per Milewski, said that the NCAA overreacted in restoring a year of eligibility to spring sports athletes amid the global health crisis. 

On March 30, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee voted 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.

Wisconsin appears to be the first major college athletics program to say its spring sport athletes cannot return in 2021, though it seems likely that others will follow. On April 2, Ivy League presidents did not approve the one-time exception for fifth-year student athletes despite the NCAA granting spring athletes an extra year of eligibility, according to The Athletic's Dana O'Neil. The league's reported vote will keep student athletes from receiving an extra year of eligibility like other conferences after the NCAA's decision.

On Thursday, the National College Players Association called on the NCAA to make major changes to its rules in light of the pandemic.

Among other requests, the player advocacy group is asking the NCAA to allow third parties the ability to pay for necessary student-athlete expenses, including food, rent, utilities and any out-of-pocket medical expenses, among other fees. The NCPA is also asking the NCAA to allow college athletes to have immediate freedom to make money from their name, image and likeness and is also looking to ensure spring athletes are able to transfer without penalty if a school chooses not to guarantee their scholarship for the upcoming season.