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The NCAA has informed its member schools that it has agreed to explore how to grant one season of relief to student-athletes in spring sports, whose title quests were abruptly ended Thursday due to the coronavirus concerns.
The NCAA’s Division I Council Coordination Committee issued a formal statement Friday indicating it “agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports.”
“Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time,” the statement said. “Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and weeks.”
“We are pleased with today’s decision by the NCAA to provide additional eligibility to the student-athletes that had spring seasons curtailed due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus,” USF athletic director Michael Kelly said in a statement released by the school.
"Myself and our athletics administration will work with our student-athletes, coaches, university and the NCAA to navigate the adjustments needed to provide those affected the opportunity to complete a full season of competition.”
Some national media, including Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, reported the plight of winter sports athletes, whose quest for championships were denied due to the global pandemic, also could be addressed.
During a news conference Friday afternoon, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said he’s “absolutely” in favor of granting that extra year. In a news conference in Orlando, UCF athletic director Danny White said he’s strongly supportive" of such a measure.
“And I don’t think we should stop at the spring sports," White said. "Just because the winter sports got to play the whole regular season, you can’t snatch away that championship opportunity.”
Among the additional issues that must be ironed out are scholarship limits, which almost certainly would have to expand for each sport to accommodate seniors who choose to remain for that additional season.
Case in point: USF currently has 40 seniors and two graduate students in its eight spring sports including sailing.
“I don’t know what the answer is,” Stricklin said. "We have a lot of time to figure that out.”
The idea of granting an additional season to winter and spring athletes gained instant traction when the NCAA announced Thursday it was canceling all winter and spring sports championships.
Among those trumpeting such a measure: Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.
“It’s an unprecedented event, so you have to take unprecedented measures,” he told ESPN on Thursday.
“In terms of each individual, I would be in favor of allowing all those that were seniors that have not had a chance to compete, not had a chance to play their spring season, they should all be given another opportunity to play.
“And what do you do about basketball? I guess if you have five seniors like we do and you say, ‘Look, they all have the opportunity to come back.’ Well you know what, if a kid wants to come back, God bless you. I’m all for it.”
Another concern: financing those extra scholarships, which could be burdensome for smaller schools. Auriemma has an answer for that.
“‘Well, the NCAA should pay for that extra year,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, the SEC essentially added spring football to the coronavirus casualty list, announcing it is suspending all organized team activities ― including competitions, team and individual practices, even team meetings ― through April 15. Such activities initially were suspended through March 30.
“Whether we try to squeeze in a spring ball late spring, early summer, whether the NCAA works with everybody to start practices earlier in the fall as soon as we’re able to have a fall, those are things that we need to figure out,” Stricklin said.
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