2020 will be the year that doesn’t count, at least according to the NCAA.
Friday afternoon the NCAA Board of Directors officially approved a blanket waiver that would allow fall sport athletes to keep their eligibility, no matter if they play sports this fall, spring, or don’t play any sports at all. Whether a player opts out or opts in, it will be as though the fall 2020 never happened.
For seniors who would have played their final season this fall, they will not count toward next year’s scholarship limit. However, schools will not be required to match their financial obligation to the player. Even though the player has one year of eligibility remaining, the school can reduce or completely cut their scholarship.
The decision by the NCAA prevents the institution from becoming the bad guy that prevents players from fulfilling their final year of eligibility in the midst of a pandemic. It also will create unintended consequences that will confound head coaches in the future.
Currently football programs are limited to 85 scholarship players. If all 17 of Kentucky’s seniors return, they could surpass 100 scholarship players next fall. Even though most would decide that they’ve spent enough time in college, Max Duffy might just want to stick around in college until he’s 30.
To see how exactly this move could hit universities in their pocketbook and expand the gap between the haves and have-nots, Ross Dellenger explored the wide-ranging consequences of this decision in Sports Illustrated.
The eligibility waiver was not the only measure reportedly passed this afternoon. Institutions cannot require students to waive their legal rights if they contract COVID-19 in order to participate in athletics. In addition to prohibiting “coronavirus waivers,” the NCAA Board of Directors is officially planning to move the scaled-down fall championships to the spring.
Find all of the decisions made by the NCAA’s Board of Directors here.