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Oklahoma Sooners Athletics: NCAA approves extra year of eligibility for spring sports athletes

Softball, baseball and other sports are impacted by the ruling.

Coach Patty Gasso

Fans of collegiate baseball, softball, golf and other spring sports were waiting patiently on the NCAA’s ruling on players regaining a season of eligibility, and they finally got their wish Monday evening. The NCAA has announced that it has approved a blanket waiver for spring athletes to get an extra year in the aftermath of spring/summer 2020 championships being cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns.

Some key components of the NCAA’s ruling:

  • The flexibility to give students the opportunity to return for 2020-21 without requiring that athletics aid be provided at the same level awarded for 2019-20. This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.
  • Adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility who decide to stay.
  • The ruling allows schools to self-apply a one-year extension of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes, effectively extending each student’s five-year “clock” by a year.
  • Winter sports (such as basketball) were not included in the decision. Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed.

While this is certainly a positive development, things are going to be slightly messy as far as scholarship allotment is concerned. Since sports like baseball and softball operate on an “equivalency” scholarship allotment system (scholarships are split into partial scholarships and are distributed throughout the roster) as opposed to the “head count” system for sports like football and basketball (only full scholarships), how schools will choose to manage the scholarships of student-athletes who would’ve otherwise exhausted their eligibility is going to be a major talking point amongst staffs. Even with the increase in allowed scholarships, schools will undoubtedly elect to give some of these seniors a smaller percentage of a scholarship than they were previously receiving, so you’re going to see a higher-than-usual number of athletes entering the transfer portal in these sports. The playing time and opportunities for certain underclassmen will also be impacted, which will certainly contribute to the transfer numbers, as well.

At any rate, it’s great that senior athletes can come back for another year if they choose to do so. Decorated careers ending because of this pandemic was just going to be very tough to swallow, so the fact that this has been avoided for spring sports athletes has to make you smile. It’s just a shame that players such as Maggie Nichols and Kristian Doolittle won’t be afforded the same opportunity.