On Monday, the NCAA announced that it will allow schools to grant student-athletes an additional year of eligibility for spring sports but not for winter sports. This means there will not be an additional year granted to men's and women's basketball student-athletes.
While the move may be disappointing for seniors and fans alike of several basketball programs, this move is the correct one as the NCAA navigates through the impact of the coronavirus.
Four days before the selection of the men's basketball NCAA Tournament field, and five days before the women's, the NCAA canceled all winter and spring sports championships. In addition to no March Madness and no national champion, there are several conference titles left undecided with the regular season completed.
Many teams across the country, though, had already wrapped up their seasons. The week prior to cancelation had wrapped up over half of the men's and women's 2019-20 campaigns with losses in respective conference tournaments. This was primarily the men's mid-major conferences and most of the women's high-major (Power 5) leagues. A select few were waiting on their postseason fate, but many were either home or on their way there and making offseason plans.
This is the lone reason cited in the Division I Council's release. But that is only part of the reason why the NCAA isn't granting an additional year.
Logistically this would be a nightmare. Already, the NCAA revealed as much in its announcement of another year of competition for spring sports. It leaves the discretion of giving the additional year to each institution instead of a broader relief.
"The Council's decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level," council chair and Penn athletics director M. Grace Calhoun said in the release. "The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that."
To make this possible, the NCAA adjusted financial aid rules, is providing funding and is extending the five-year clock of competition by a year. Most importantly, it also expanded the roster limit for baseball teams to allow incoming high school seniors to not occupy roster spots for those who wish to return. No other sports have roster limits.
Div. I basketball programs are allowed no more than 13 full scholarships. Giving seniors the opportunity to come back would complicate how schools would make decisions on which players can do so, and which ones couldn't. Any spot that a school would allow a senior to come back could take away a scholarship from a recruit that already committed to the program.
Not every school would make the same decisions either. The scholarship limit would have to be lifted, but then for how much and for how long? Would the extra year be given to the underclassmen too?
Allowing those programs to get that season back would create more problems in a trying time for many across the world. Administrators, coaches, fans, players, recruits; there would be no easy solution that would be fair to all parties.
At least a canceled March Madness stinks for everyone. Fans included.
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