Just two weeks removed from the NCAA’s decision to cancel all major conference tournaments as well as the NCAA Tournament after the spread of COVID-19, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented situation that’s seen all major sports suspend their seasons or just shut down operations entirely. Whether or not the decision to outright cancel all sporting events just a day after the decision to host events with no fans was the right decision is a debate for another day, but we are now at the point where we have to discuss what this decision means for student-athletes in the long run.
This is uncharted waters for all of us, and one thing that the NCAA should be discussing is the concern of eligibility for student-athletes in winter sports who saw their seasons cut short.
The NCAA has already granted eligibility to student-athletes playing spring sports, a wise move considering their seasons had only just begun, but reporter Jon Rothstein has already reported that it is unlikely athletes in winter sports receive the same treatment. Though winter sports were close to concluding their seasons, that should not mean that they don’t receive the same opportunity of extra eligibility that spring sports have received.
This, to me, is an issue, particularly when looking at the basketball teams that will be forever robbed of a chance at competing in the NCAA Tournament, the crown jewel of collegiate sports. Perhaps most athletes with a chance at going pro will bypass that chance at extra eligibility, but the athletes that don’t have that chance would at the very least strongly consider it, and they deserve that opportunity.
Of course there would be some hurdles to overcome in order to make this work; the NCAA will have to deal with issues concerning team roster sizes and scholarship allotments, which will be thrown into a flux if players end up returning, but the NCAA is already tasked with figuring this out for spring sports, so why not try for winter sports as well?
The NCAA addressed these concerns in a letter to member schools, saying “the committee recognizes that several issues need to be addressed related to providing an additional season of competition, including financial aid implications."
It’s clear they have a lot to work out for spring sports, but why they haven’t properly addressed winter sports yet has been something I don’t quite understand. Sure, they mentioned looking into it around the time they granted spring sports this opportunity, but since then it’s been silent on their end.
This is an opportunity for the NCAA to make things right with the athletes that have generated millions of dollars to both the organization and its respective conferences predominantly from the revenue generated from preseason play. The least they can do here is give them the opportunity next year to come back and get one last opportunity to represent their schools on the largest stage in college sports.