The Division One advisory group which helps set policies for the NCAA made the unprecedented recommendation Wednesday to allow players an extra year of eligibility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, an attempt to ward off the mass exodus of players anticipated with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and others opting out of the fall football season.
The landmark recommendation could help convince players struggling with the decision on whether they should turn pro now or return for another year of college football.
As SI.com’s Ross Dellenger was wise to point out, however, is that this is a recommendation and one that the NCAA will need to adopt to make it official.
While the NCAA’s potential acceptance of this recommendation would provide upperclassmen with greater flexibility during these unprecedented times, it fell short of explaining how individual programs would be able to handle the financial responsibilities of supporting these student-athletes, as well as the incoming freshman coming in next year.
And obviously, the NCAA granting another year of the eligibility would do nothing to slow the biological clocks of its players.
Another year in college – spent playing or not – means another year players are not earning an NFL paycheck, something agents will no doubt be reminding prospects as they make their own very personal life-altering decisions on whether or not to sit out the 2020 season or simply jump into the 2021 draft, as six prominent players have already done.
Still, at a time when leadership at many levels has been slow to recognize the realities of the global pandemic, today’s recommendation (and possible adoption next week) would be a positive step towards protecting the eligibility – and more importantly, the educational opportunities – each of these young men were promised when signing with their respective programs.
It is critical for the NCAA to make a ruling on this as opinions are clearly mixed throughout the country with how best to respond to the pandemic.
With the Big Ten and Pac-12 representing two of the so-called five Power-5 conferences already opting out on the fall season, the legitimacy of statistics, bowl games and even the national championship has already been compromised.
After all, if the ACC, Big 12 and SEC play (and finish) their seasons this fall and winter, awards, bowl games and the title will be determined then, regardless of whatever occurs during a potential spring season.
And that brings us back to the NFL draft perspective, where a spring football season appears unlikely to jive with the NFL draft, already set for April 29-May 1.
The NFL, of course, could provide college football some leeway in this issue, opting to move its draft to a later date.
That, however, would require a similar show of unprecedented flexibility by the NFL, which sources continue to tell me is understandably currently worried more about its own start to the season than preparing for the 2021 draft.