(Photo: Charles Nye / USATODAY)
(Photo: Charles Nye / USATODAY)

NCAA to offer free year of eligibility to fall sports athletes

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This next season -- however it may be played -- could very well be on the NCAA for fall sports athletes.

The NCAA Division I Council has recommended to the D1 Board of Directors meeting Friday that all fall sports athletes -- no matter how much they play when their sports season comes up in the next year -- will not have that season count against their eligibility.

Football is an interesting case with that in the upcoming season due to four of the 10 FBS conferences opting to postpone seasons to the spring, including Power 5 entities in the Big Ten and Pac-12.

Other fall sports this could affect at Clemson would be soccer, volleyball and cross country.

Full NCAA release:

The Division I Council recommended the Division I Board of Directors pursue moving all the division’s fall championships to the spring because more than 50 percent of schools participating in each NCAA fall championship sport canceled or postponed their seasons. The Council met virtually Wednesday.

In accordance with the NCAA Board of Governors directive, the Council recommended that fall championships should be played in the spring only if they can be conducted safely and in accordance with federal, state and local health guidelines.

The Division I Competition Oversight Committee and Division I Football Oversight Committee will continue to work on more detailed models for fall championships in the impacted sports, with the priority of preserving opportunities for winter and spring student-athletes who did not have the chance to participate in NCAA championships in 2019-20.

Student-athlete well-being directives

Members also recommended the board give all fall sport student-athletes both an additional year of eligibility and an additional year in which to complete it, a recommendation that is even more flexible than what it endorsed last week.

After its meeting last week, Council members agreed to recommend that all fall sport student-athletes who compete and then opt out of future participation or have a season cut short or eliminated due to COVID-19 receive: (1) an extension of their five-year period of eligibility; and (2) an additional season of competition if they participate in 50% or less of the maximum number of competitions allowed in each sport.

But members now think more flexibility is warranted at a time when some conferences have postponed fall sports, some have canceled and others continue to move toward competing in abbreviated seasons.

Additionally, Council members recommended:

-Schools should be prohibited from requiring student-athletes to waive legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation.

-Schools should be prohibited from canceling or reducing athletics scholarships if a college athlete in any sport opts not to participate due to COVID-19.

-That student-athletes who do not enroll full time during the 2020 fall term be provided some flexibility in the progress-toward-degree requirements that must be met for eligibility in future terms.

- The financial aid of fall sport senior student-athletes who take advantage of the additional year of eligibility and extended clock should not count against team limits in 2021-22.

Schools should be required to:

- Review current insurance coverage for all student-athletes who are competing this fall.

-Inform student-athletes about the risk classification of their sport as outlined in the Resocialization of Collegiate Sport document.

-Inform student-athletes how the mandates in the Resocialization of Collegiate Sport document are being met at their campus

Playing and practice season regulations

The Council also discussed playing and practice season issues that resulted from seasons being canceled and postponed and agreed that current legislation provides flexibility for members to apply the rules that work best for most of their student-athletes. Council members did grant a waiver to allow the same flexibility for women’s volleyball, which has different rules.

The Council will seek membership feedback and further develop the potential models for spring championships before making a final decision on playing and practice season rules for fall sports in 2020-21.

The Football Oversight Committee recommended that schools that have postponed their football fall competition and plan to compete in the spring of 2021 be allowed to participate in up to 12 hours of countable athletics activities per week, with two required days off. No more than five of those hours can be skill instruction, during which footballs, helmets and spider pads can be used. No contact would be allowed, but strength and conditioning, team, position and individual meetings and film review would be allowed within the 12-hour weekly limit. A four-hour daily limit on athletics activities is included.

The Council adopted the oversight committee’s recommendations as emergency legislation for both the Football Bowl and Football Championship subdivisions. The new limits are effective Monday, Aug. 24, through Oct. 4. The committee intends to further study the issue to determine appropriate levels of countable athletics activity for the remainder of the year.

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