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BREAKING: NCAA extends eligibility for spring-sport athletes

The NCAA has officially granted an extra year of eligibility for spring-sport athletes affected by the organization’s shortened seasons in wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Division I Council voted on Monday evening to allow schools to provide such affected athletes with an “additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility.”

Along with the vote comes an adjustment on financial rules, thus allowing spring teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for both incoming recruits and those who choose to stay in school and pick up their additional season of eligibility.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”

Under standard procedure, student-athletes are limited to four seasons of competition within a five-year period. Now, schools may restore one of those seasons for those who had competition cut short due to COVID-19 and allows the extension of eligibility beyond the five-year clock.

Winter sports were not included in this decision. Where many winter sports, namely men’s and women’s basketball, had their championship seasons cut short by decisions enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, council members declined to extend their eligibility as “much of their regular seasons were completed.”

The decision also increases the roster limit in baseball, the only spring sport with such a limit, for one season to accommodate those impacted with the COVID-19 pandemic.

How does this effect Ole Miss? All seniors on the baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track athletes can come back for one additional year if they so choose. All others can choose to take another year in the future. Athletes previously leaning towards leaving for the pro level now have more leverage and will be more likely to return to college.

The financial impact of extra scholarships and the subsequent bottleneck effect of larger roster sizes for not just one, but likely a few years, is yet to be determined. But for now, this is good news for the student-athletes.