Division I student-athletes competing in winter sports during 2020-21 will officially receive an additional year of eligibility and an additional year in which to complete it.
The NCAA Division I Council officially voted to confirm the news today.
“The pandemic will continue to impact winter sport seasons in ways we can’t predict. Council members opted to provide for winter sport student-athletes the same flexibility given spring and fall sports previously,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “The actions today ensure the continuation of local decision-making in the best interest of each institution and its student-athletes.”
The same flexibility was provided to student-athletes after the spring season was canceled in 2020 and the fall season was seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council also agreed to grant a blanket waiver for 2020-21 to allow conferences to earn an automatic bid in fall championships if a minimum of three member schools participated in conference competition in that sport. The membership will collaboratively address automatic qualifications and at-large allocations should there be a change to field sizes in winter and spring sports, except for men’s and women’s basketball.
The Competition Oversight Committee previously had approved flexibility for championships selection:
- Teams in winter sports can participate in as few as 50% of the required minimum contests/dates of competition and still be considered for championships selection. Men’s and women’s basketball previously set their minimum contest number at 13. This reduction is consistent with what was provided for fall sports.
- Teams in winter sports are not required to have an overall won-lost record of .500 or better, which is normally required for teams to be eligible for at-large championships selections. This also is consistent with what was provided for fall sports teams.
Beyond the official release by the NCAA, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy broke the news that the Division I Council also approved a proposal to allow one-time transfers in all sports without sitting out a season, with a vote coming in January for final approval.
Should the vote pass, as expected, the rule would go into effect starting Aug. 1, 2021.
NCAA Council approves proposal to allow 1-time transfers in all sports w/out sitting out a season & will vote on it January for final approval, sources told @Stadium. If approved, as expected, would be effective Aug. 1, 2021
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) October 14, 2020
As for what today’s rulings mean for UK Athletics, the biggest and most immediate news involves Kentucky center Olivier Sarr and his fight for immediate eligibility.
While the NCAA has approved Sarr’s waiver for immediate eligibility, SEC bylaw 14.1.15 states that student-athletes with less than two years of eligibility remaining must fulfill a residence requirement of one full academic year.
“A student-athlete who, upon enrollment at the certifying institution, has less than two years of eligibility remaining shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition at a member institution until the student has fulfilled a residence requirement of one full academic year (two full semesters) at the certifying institution,” the official bylaw states.
With this blanket waiver now official, Sarr – by rule – has two more years of eligibility remaining at Kentucky, thus taking out the need for one full academic year of residence at the certifying institution. The SEC now has no reason not to clear the highly touted transfer out of Wake Forest.
Beyond Sarr, graduate transfer Davion Mintz will now have the opportunity to play two years at Kentucky if he so chooses. Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin, who originally planned on sitting out a year to develop his game and body before returning to the floor in 2021-22, will also be able to suit up and help the team if need be while maintaining his original timeline on campus. This is, of course, if the NCAA grants him a waiver for immediate eligibility.
As for the one-time transfer rule set to be voted on and approved in January, Kentucky’s recruiting efforts dramatically shift toward high-profile college stars looking for a change of scenery instead of solely relying on high school recruits to round of the 2021-22 roster and beyond.
Needless to say, significant news for the Kentucky basketball program.