NCAA Eligibility Extension Questions
Bennett Gagnon said he couldn’t sleep at night. The National Colleges Athletic Association has announced that its leaders will discuss whether the spring athletes can continue to compete, even if their eligibility expires in 2020.
Gagnon, a fifth-year track runner from Gonzaga University, lay awake thinking about what overtime might mean for him and his teammates. He had previously taken out a loan of $ 30,000 to pay for the tuition of a one-year MBA program to further his education and be eligible to run outdoors this spring, a season which canceled by NCAA because of the coronavirus pandemic. Could he afford to give up another year without a full-time job, take out another loan to pursue a third degree and pursue the dream he signed up for at 17?
“When is sixth grade worth it for a kid who loves being an athlete and wants to break personal bests in this jersey again? Said Gagnon. “At what point financially and professionally is it a bad decision to keep running? I am not a career runner. I will not be a professional. But I love this.”
Gagnon and other college athletes are engrossed in questions for the NCAA and its divisional leaders about how exactly an eligibility extension would work for students who play baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse and d ‘other spring sports which could not compete this year. Athletic directors and coaches face the possibility that if the NCAA allowed them to award more scholarships, they might not have enough funds to give both seniors who would be given an extra year and freshmen. years that begin their college career.
It appears the NCAA didn’t give thought to how the extensions would work when it announced the decisions on March 13, said Timothy Russell, CEO of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, the governing body of college tennis. Divisions II and III granted spring athletes an additional season or semester of eligibility, while Division I management “agreed that the eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated at spring sports “and said details would be” finalized later, “according to a Press release.
The divisions have not promised to increase the number of athletic scholarships that each program is allowed to give, which vary by sport. As discussions continue, “the devil will be in the details,” said Russell.
Division I athletic directors considered the logistics of the extension: adjustments to existing NCAA scholarships and roster limits, whether the extension would apply to all athletes or only senior graduates, and d ‘Where would the money for the extra scholarship come from,’ said Gene Taylor, athletic director at Kansas State University. In a call with other athletic directors at the Big 12 conference, leaders expressed a greater willingness to work on extensions for spring athletes than for winter athletes, who completed “90 for. 100 of their season “before most championship cancellations occur,” Taylor said.
“As heartbreaking as it can be, I don’t know how much support there is to do it for winter sports,” Taylor said. “Somewhere along the line we’ll have to make a pretty tough decision… Give yourself a scholarship for new freshmen; do you tell the elderly that they can stay without the scholarship? “
A petition created by Gagnon calls on the NCAA to adjust its rules and allow spring athletes who graduated in 2020 to compete for another year without being enrolled in classes, extend its scholarship limits and compensate universities for additional scholarships and athletes for accommodation and meals. But Russell said it was “not at all realistic” to think the NCAA would pay extra scholarships because it faces its own financial challenges.
The ideal situation would be for seniors to come back next year with their current scholarship or better, using funds saved from the canceled season, said Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, a professional organization for coaches. amateur baseball.
“I hope administrators, presidents, athletic directors and so on can make the right decision – to do what’s right for the student athlete,” Keilitz said. “It very simply comes from all the money in the budget saved by not traveling, not playing, not feeding the student athletes for the rest of this year. This would greatly exceed the amount of scholarships saved for the elderly. “
Operating expenses will decrease for spring sports, but sports departments are also heavily dependent on allocations from the various sports conferences the institutions participate in, said Nick Schlereth, professor of recreation and sports management at Coastal Carolina University who studies sports. college athletics cash flow. Conferences receive NCAA shares annually, and with the cancellation of men’s basketball tournament, worth roughly $ 800 million in revenue, those top-down contributions will depend on what the NCAA is able to recoup with its business interruption insurance, lines of credit and reserves, Taylor said. .
“I don’t think we can put it on one band and say, ‘You have to cover us up,’” Taylor said. “We need to find ways to participate collectively as a group. If we try to put it on a person or a group, we’ll never get the right answer.
Individual institutions could also suffer losses if they rely on spring ticket income, such as colleges with successful baseball programs, Schlereth said. Some institutions may have hoped to benefit from the men’s basketball tournament, which brings media exposure and name recognition to lesser-known institutions each year, he said. Also, the more teams advance in the tournament, the more money their conferences receive from the NCAA basketball fund, Schlereth said.
Possible solutions to losses in athletics departments could include shifting academic resources or increasing tuition fees for students who many universities rely on athletics funding, Schlereth said.
“The whole university will suffer. How is this going to be covered? Said Schlereth. “I believe it’s the right thing to do, but the right thing to do also has financial implications.”
No matter how the decision-making process unfolds, senior athletes will have to make a life-changing decision about whether they can afford to take advantage of overtime, and that is “just a part of life”. Keilitz said. Gagnon, the runner from Gonzaga, said his athletic scholarship is $ 5,000 each year and currently only covers a portion of his MBA tuition, so even if he was able to keep it, he will have to determine if another year of competition is worth the thousands more. it costs to register for courses.
Senior athletes will also need to consider other non-financial factors of an extra year, such as the job opportunities that await them after graduation, or whether the loss of the 2020 season puts them at a disadvantage. of the competition, said Ellen Staurowsky, professor of sports management. at Drexel University and expert on social justice issues in sport.
“There will be practical realities as to whether they want to be in school for five or six years,” Staurowsky said. “The other side is that there will be athletes who are very determined to pursue the goals they set for themselves… They have unfinished business that they have a chance to achieve.”