NCAA approves blanket waiver for extra spring sports eligibility


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Carson Spiers is a draft-eligible Tiger who could benefit.
Carson Spiers is a draft-eligible Tiger who could benefit.

The NCAA approved an extra year of eligibility for spring sports athletes after all. With an important caveat.

Concerns over the financial implications cast some doubt on whether the NCAA Council would approve the measure on Monday. To put those concerns at ease, the NCAA also approved that it's up the schools on the level of aid given to seniors applying for a waiver, with the ability to grant eligibility and not grant any financial aid whatsoever.

The NCAA also had to approve teams being able to go above the scholarship limit standards. From the NCAA news release:

"Members also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility who decide to stay. In a nod to the financial uncertainty faced by higher education, 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. This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.

"Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.

"Division I rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period. The Council’s decision allows schools to self-apply waivers to restore one of those seasons of competition for student-athletes who had competed while eligible in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 spring season.

"The Council also will allow schools to self-apply a one-year extension of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes, effectively extending each student’s five-year 'clock' by a year. This decision was especially important for student-athletes who had reached the end of their five-year clock in 2020 and saw their seasons end abruptly."

The effect of this measure on spring sports is to be determined. Baseball is one interesting case where draft-eligible juniors - facing a potential reduction in MLB draft rounds this year - could stick around and still have two years of eligibility.

The NCAA did not include winter sports in the decision by a council vote as well, given that all or much of their seasons were finished by the NCAA decision to cancel championships.

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