NCAA Division I Council recommends fall-sport athletes receive extra year of eligibility

The NCAA Division I Council recommended Wednesday that all fall-sport athletes, regardless of how many games they play this academic year, receive an extra season of eligibility. The NCAA Board of Directors has to approve the recommendation before it goes into effect.

The council previously agreed that athletes who opted out or had their season cut short or canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic receive an extension of their eligibility clock and an additional season of eligibility if they participated in 50 percent or fewer of the NCAA’s maximum number of games in their given sport. The council, which includes athletic directors and other administrators, said in its statement that “more flexibility is warranted” and that all fall-sport athletes should have that relief.

Typically, athletes have five years to complete four seasons of eligibility. The council also recommended that athletes have an additional year to complete their eligibility.

If the board approves this recommendation, seniors who play in the 2020 season, or in a winter version of the season for the conferences that have postponed, could play another season in 2021. Those athletes who return for an extra season during the 2021-22 school year would not count toward the team’s scholarship limits.

The Division I Council made a similar decision for spring-sport athletes who had their seasons cut short by the coronavirus. For those athletes, the Indianapolis-based NCAA granted schools the ability to self-apply the waiver for additional eligibility, meaning schools could choose whether athletes would be able to return. Some universities did not allow any athletes to take advantage of the eligibility relief, usually citing financial concerns.

The council also recommended that all Division I fall championships move to the spring “if they can be conducted safely and in accordance with federal, state and local health guidelines,” the statement said. The NCAA canceled those championship events last week. Many conferences had already postponed fall sports and the Board of Governors required that at least 50 percent of schools participate in a season for a championship to be held.

Six conferences—the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference and Conference USA—are still planning to play fall sports. While the NCAA does not control the College Football Playoff, the championships for every other fall sport will not take place as scheduled. The council’s statement said that Division I oversight committees are working on developing models for these fall championships held in the spring.

“We continue to be committed to providing opportunities wherever possible,” M. Grace Calhoun, the Division I Council chair and the athletic director at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “We know how much our student-athletes value these championship opportunities and will continue to exert maximum flexibility to sponsor them.”

The council adopted the football oversight committee’s recommendation to allow a hybrid practice model for teams that plan to play in the winter or spring. Those programs will be allowed 12 hours of athletics activity per week, with five hours of on-field, no-contact work and seven hours of strength and conditioning and meetings. Those limits begin Monday and run through Oct. 4. The committee will later determine how much football players can practice and work out through the rest of the fall semester.

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