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NCAA grants spring athletes additional year of eligibility

Change to effect 13 Cardinal teams, nearly 300 Stanford student-athletes

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The NCAA Division I Council voted on Monday to grant an additional year of eligibility to all spring athletes, whose seasons were cut short or cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions earlier this month. 

The effects of this policy will last for years, as current freshmen will next year be redshirt freshmen — effectively increasing roster sizes across sports by 25% for the next four seasons. 

The changes will apply to Cardinal baseball, men’s golf, women’s golf, lacrosse, women’s rowing, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, beach volleyball, men’s volleyball and women’s water polo. The decision will affect 299 current Stanford athletes, as well as dozens of incoming recruits.

Extensions in eligibility will not apply to men’s rowing, women’s lightweight rowing and sailing because they are not NCAA sanctioned sports.

The decision also did not include winter sports, which were also cut short, because “all or much of their regular seasons were completed.”

In order to facilitate this shift, the NCAA also adjusted financial rules to allow teams to expand rosters and scholarships to accommodate both seniors that chose to stay and incoming recruits. The NCAA did not require scholarships, however, simply deferring financial decisions to individual universities. For student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20, Stanford may keep constant or even decrease athletics scholarships on a team-by-team basis. These changes, if any, will be made on the University level.

Athletes in both men’s and women’s basketball and swimming and diving, whose seasons abruptly ended pre-NCAA tournaments/championships, will not be allowed an extra year of eligibility.

Formerly, the NCAA allowed four seasons of collegiate competition in a five-year span, but now schools will be able to self-apply waivers to provide an additional season. This change is especially important for members of the class of 2020, who formerly would have graduated without using their fourth year of eligibility. 

The NCAA noted that schools will have access to the national organization’s Student Assistance Fund for 2020-21 to pay for the additional scholarships.

Nevertheless, the change will be costly for Stanford, as it now must provide necessary resources for more athletes for a long period of time. According to USA Today, giving an additional season of eligibility just to seniors on spring-sports teams could cost public schools in the Power Five conferences — including the Pac-12 —anywhere from $500,000 to $900,000. Exact numbers for Stanford, in particular, are unknown.

Stanford Athletics has not responded to The Daily’s request for comment, but other athletic directors nationwide have voiced concern over the new financial burden.

The council also increased baseball’s roster limit, which formerly capped programs at 35. It was the only sport with such a cap.

While this decision will benefit many spring sports teams nationwide, it is still unclear how summer training and fall sports will proceed given the uncertain future of COVID-19. 

Contact Cybele Zhang at cybelez ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Cybele Zhang '22 is majoring in English Literature with a minor in German Studies. The Los Angeles-native has served as Sports Editor, her current position, for Vol. 255, 257 and 258. Her writing covers a wide range of sports, but she especially enjoys writing about women in sports and NCAA policy. Contact her at [email protected]