NCAA Allows Athletes Opportunity To Not Lose Eligibility Due To Fall Sports Postponement

NCAA allows athletes who participate in restarted fall sports this winter or spring to not have that participation count toward their eligibility clock.
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The NCAA essentially has allowed for the possibility of fall athletes to get a free year of eligibility even if their sport is restarted in the winter of spring.

The NCAA announced earlier this month that all fall national tournaments and championships would be canceled in all sports due to the coronavirus pandemic and therefore, immediately creating the question of eligibility for those athletes. According to a Friday afternoon release from the NCAA, fall athletes will not be penalized for the cancellation of 2020 fall sports, but instead receive an extra year of eligibility if the athlete and the member institution intend to use that right.

It should be noted that Football Bowl Subdivision competition can still be played and crown a championship because the NCAA doesn’t hold jurisdiction over that band of competition. However, even athletes in those sports can play fall football, if their designated conference allows for it, and not have that season count against their eligibility.

The NCAA Division I Council recommended these changes earlier this month. This ruling is similar to the one given by the NCAA for spring sports athletes who saw their season end abruptly in March due to COVID-19.

“Additionally, all fall sport student-athletes will receive both an additional year of eligibility and an additional year in which to complete it, as the Council suggested, through a blanket waiver,” the statement reads.

The NCAA Board of Directors approved the following mandates:

  • Schools are prohibited from requiring student-athletes to waive legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation. NOTE: This was included in response to the COVID-19 pledges being signed by athletes and staff members during offseason workouts once athletes returned to their respective campuses.
  • Schools are prohibited from canceling or reducing current athletics scholarships if a college athlete in any sport opts not to participate due to COVID-19.
  • Student-athletes who do not enroll full time during the 2020 fall term have flexibility in the progress-toward-degree requirements that must be met for eligibility in future terms.
  • The financial aid of fall sport senior student-athletes who take advantage of the additional year of eligibility and extended clock will not count against team limits in 2021-22.

All Division I schools are also required to do the following:

  • Review current insurance coverage for all student-athletes who are competing this fall.

Inform student-athletes about the risk classification of their sport as outlined in a document released this summer titled 'Resocialization of Collegiate Sport'.

  • Inform student-athletes how the mandates in the 'Resocialization of Collegiate Sport' document are being met at their campus.

The statement by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors also details a current willingness to have as many fall sports national championships held in the spring semester.

“Division I will work toward hosting scaled back fall championships in the spring, the Division I Board of Directors determined,” the statement reads. “The board met by videoconference Friday and adopted the Division I Council recommendation regarding fall championships.”

“We want to provide opportunities for student-athletes whenever possible,” acting board chair Denise Trauth, who is also the president at Texas State University, said in a statement. “We understand it will be complicated and different, and we’re not certain how it will look. But we believe it’s important to try to give students that championship experience.”