NCAA Covid-19 Eligibility Relief
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Amidst the evolving Covid-19 public health threat, the NCAA canceled all remaining winter and spring championships on March 12, 2020. On March 13, 2020 the Division I Council Coordination Committee agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for spring sports. With these decisions, the foreseeable futures of thousands of NCAA student-athletes changed in a moment. For many of us, returning for one more year is not feasible financially. For others, jobs have been accepted for when spring sports were planned to end. Other student-athletes will complete their degrees in the coming months, being forced to either start up a new program or postpone their courses and education so that one year from now, they can meet the NCAA Division I eligibility requirements. As a group, we have hundreds - if not thousands - of unique needs that must be met, and met quickly.
I am among the group that has nearly completed our degrees. I planned to spend 5 years running Cross County, Indoor Track and Field, and Outdoor Track and Field at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington under the guidance and direction of legendary coach Pat Tyson. I promptly completed my undergraduate degree (a Bachelor of Science in Economics) in 4 years, then began a graduate program (MBA with a finance concentration) which I am currently scheduled to finish in the coming months. Without further clarification from the NCAA it appears that in order to return and compete in what would now be my 6th year, I would need to extend my MBA program, or add a third degree. Neither option is financially feasible for me; I have already taken out loans in order to come back for my 5th year of eligibility and complete my MBA. My teammates have accepted jobs in different cities starting this summer after the NCAA Track and Field National Championships were scheduled to occur. On behalf of, the thousands of other NCAA student-athletes in our final year of the sport we have thrown countless hours and tireless love and energy into, I ask the following, and ask that decisions be made within the next week:
1. What will the NCAA Division I credit requirements look like for student-athletes who take up the offer of eligibility relief?
2. Will the NCAA entertain a credit allowance for student-athletes who complete their degrees in the coming month, so that we can compete in 2021 without being enrolled in another program?
3. Will student-athletes have to postpone the completion of our degrees in order to be eligible for our 5th or 6th year?
4. Will the NCAA support student-athletes financially for the extra year of expenses we would now incur in order to accept the eligibility relief offering?
5. Will the NCAA give support to those student-athletes who cannot attend their team’s regularly scheduled practices after they have accepted jobs?
6. What are spring sports athletes’ obligations during the fall semester/quarter? Do they need to be enrolled in courses during the fall to come back for spring? If so, what are the requirements?
7. Will the NCAA financially assist students who prolong their educations in order to pursue their eligibility relief? Will financial relief be provided in addition to eligibility relief?
8. What will be done for those athletes not in their final year? What of those who have not already redshirted? For those student-athletes, will this year be treated as a forced redshirt or will we simply ignore the 2020 spring and winter seasons, thus allowing all current NCAA athletes the possibility of competing for a maximum of 6 years (7 with a medical redshirt)?
9. How will the NCAA handle the transfer of scholarships to athletes who are now remaining for one more year than their institution budgeted scholarships for?
In order for the NCAA to do right by their commitment to student-athletes, I give the following recommendations:
1. Allow for student-athletes who accept their additional year of spring eligibility to compete, while not being enrolled in any credits, if they have finished their degrees.
2. Financially compensate the universities for the scholarships they pay out to student-athletes who accept their eligibility relief.
3. Disregard the scholarships of student-athletes who accept eligibility relief when calculating maximum scholarship limitations for universities.
4. Financially compensate the student-athletes for the additional year of room and board they will now incur using cost-of-living adjustments based on university locations.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Our athletic careers have been put on pause while the world around us continues. Please consider the needs of student-athletes first, before the financial concerns of the NCAA.
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