NCAA ruling allowing extra eligibility comes with flexibility and complexity


OMAHA, NE – JUNE 26: Stephen Scott #19 of the Vanderbilt Commodores catches a fly ball at the ball in the fifth inning against the Michigan Wolverines during game three of the College World Series Championship Series on June 26, 2019 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS – Ind. – As college athletics came to a full stop last month, disbelief that something like this even could happen quickly turned into disappointment that it was.

Indiana softball had just finished a tournament game when their coaches told them to step aside and rest in the shade. While there, they saw their coaches talking something through with their parents, and the team began to get an idea of what was coming.

“Some of our seniors started getting super emotional,” remembers junior Annika Baez. “Then as we saw everyone else get emotional, we started getting emotional.

“At that point, that’s all we knew, that that was it.”

But now, with the NCAA allowing extra eligibility, many of those college careers will continue.

“Thank you so much,” Baez remembers feeling toward the NCAA. “I can’t be any more thankful. It means a lot. I’m so happy for our seniors, to know they have another year to complete.”

Still, extra eligibility is not quite as simple as it sounds.

A representative from Purdue told me many of the spring sports coaches are still concerned about the clarity on how rosters will come together for next year. So no one from Boilermaker Athletics would comment for this story. But why is clarity lacking?

Look at part of the NCAA’s decision:

… the Council vote also provided schools with the flexibility to give students the opportunity to return for 2020-21 without requiring that athletics aid be provided at the same level awarded for 2019-20.


It allows schools the flexibility to give students who’s eligibility expired the opportunity to return. It is not definite that schools will allow those athletes to return or that all athletes will want to return. The NCAA’s decision also says schools can bring players back under a different level of aid, meaning player scholarships may be reduced.

So this decision from the NCAA is more of a starting point in planning for the next spring sports season than a final outline. How individual member schools handle their extra flexibility will have long-lasting implications.

“If it weren’t for softball, I wouldn’t be getting a Big 10 education and be at the best school ever,” explains Baez. “To have another year, it’s definitely life-changing.”

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