Athletics: Cajuns applaud NCAA coronavirus eligibility ruling - applies to all Spring sport athletes
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 31, 2020
The NCAA’s decision to give a season of eligibility back to spring sport student-athletes whose seasons were cut short by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was met Monday with relief and appreciation from the Ragin’ Cajuns.
The ruling applies to all athletes, not just seniors.
It also extends an athlete’s eligibility clock beyond the usual five years to play four seasons, and it does not count the 2020 season against them.
“Thank you @NCAA” UL junior pitcher Brock Batty tweeted.
Canceling the season was especially tough for UL’s softball team, which was ranked No. 1 in national RPI ratings when the play was halted earlier this month.
But this somewhat softens the blow.
“This is a great day, in my opinion, for collegiate athletics, in the sense that the student-athletes will have a choice to make,” Cajuns athletic director Bryan Maggard told The Daily Advertiser in a telephone interview.
Although no one is obligated to come back, the vote by the NCAA’s Division I Council allows schools to provide the additional season of competition and extend the athletes’ period of eligibility.
Baseball roster limits also will be waived next season, but – according to Maggard – they’ll be put back into place after then.
The council also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and seniors who decide to stay.
Baseball, for instance, currently is limited to the equivalent of just 11.7 full scholarships.
It’s up to individual schools, however, to decide how much each athletic aid each senior will be provided; the amount can be the same as this school year, a lesser amount or nothing at all.
“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, Penn’s athletics director, said in a statement released by the NCAA.
Maggard suggested it will up to individual coaches to decide if aid will be fully matched, whether that's baseball, softball, golf, tennis or track and field.
“We would be committed to doing that, should that be the desire,” he said.
“But … the head coaches of those sports will certainly visit with their student-athletes between now and the end of the semester … to have those discussions to see where the opportunities will lie.”
That’s typical after any season.
“But I will anticipate that should a student-athlete want to return, they’re gonna have the opportunity to do so, Maggard said.
“But we’ll just have to see where the aid falls in those discussions.”
Most UL baseball and softball players are on partial scholarships anyway.
The committee made no accommodations, however, for seniors on partial scholarships to be compensated for the extra out-of-pocket costs associated with an extra unplanned year of schooling.
If all of UL’s current spring sports seniors opted to return, Maggard said it could cost the Cajuns “somewhere near $500,000” in extra scholarship expenses.
But he does not expect all will.
“In reality I do not anticipate every senior choosing to come back,” he said, guessing that “at least half” will.
“I think some will just choose to move on. They’re either gonna graduate in May or December, and they may have jobs lined up and/or just want to pursue their professional careers.”
Because of the deadly pandemic, UL has shut down all on-campus classes this semester and is holding only online coursework.
While spring sport athletes got their extra year, those who played winter sports – including basketball – did not.
The UL basketball men’s basketball team’s season was over anyway.
But the Cajuns women’s team, which had just one senior on its roster, had its semi-round Sun Belt Conference Tournament game canceled when the shutdown was into full effect.
Maggard was not surprised by the outcome of Monday’s vote.
“It was pretty much in line with what we thought could be the option,” he said, “and was just pleased the D1 Council approved it.”
After meeting late last week, Maggard added, Sun Belt Conference athletic directors were supportive of “granting the extra year of competition” for all spring sport student-athletes.
“I don’t think there is going to be anyone (among them) is who is going to be disappointed. … Because everyone lost a year of competition, not just seniors,” he said.
Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill issued a statement late Monday night saying the league "supports" the decision.
"The interest and well-being of our Sun Belt student-athletes are at the core of our mission," Gill said. "We believe this is the correct course of action because it's another opportunity for our student-athletes to have a complete competitive season."
Related: Gill favors eligibility for all