Coronavirus cancelations hit us all by surprise, and student-athletes need eligibility relief. First, we thought, well, there is an outbreak in China, but it’s half a world away. We thought news outlets were exaggerating the severity of the virus. For the most part, everyone was prepared to simply get on with their lives. They paid the viral outbreak no attention. A few weeks passed; people made light of the impending threat.
Next thing you know, an NBA player tested positive.
This news was big, so big that the NBA put their season on hold. Shockingly, the NCAA tried everything it could to keep the games going. They would have hosted March Madness games in an empty arena to keep the tournament alive if possible. There were even conversations about hosting a 16-team tournament as an alternative. Universities across the nation sent their students home. Suddenly, the situation seemed unmistakably serious.
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The spring seasons for sports have all been canceled. There will be no College World Series, no March Madness, nothing. The students hurting the most are the seniors. Incoming freshmen face difficulties as well. NCAA representatives must figure out scholarship limits and team sizes.
The NCAA should also evaluate each season’s top performers. Athletes may lose their scholarships for questionable reasons when competitions resume. Hopefully, the NCAA recognizes the top athletes for this season.
Universities may strip freshmen of their scholarships to compensate for the coronavirus cancelations. Coaches may tell student-athletes that their scholarship is not guaranteed until the players perform their freshman year. Even freshmen should get eligibility relief. There is nothing wrong with protecting first-year students.
People always abuse the freshmen. It’s fun, and it’s easy. Even in high school there are no consequences for rattling them emotionally. Sophomores throw batteries at the freshman. Juniors give them the wrong directions. Head coaches abuse their power over them. What changes now is that usually, the seniors don’t care because they are on their way out anyway.
But they still did not want their seasons to end. Seniors are freaking out. These guys are writing petitions and causing all kinds of uproar. Ultimately, cancelations were unavoidable, but these young athletes aren’t taking these changes lying down.
Now, student-athletes may also be told that they can remain eligible, but that they will have to take out loans to pay their tuition. As tragic as this sounds, this will be far from surprising when everything unfolds.
D1 Council Takes Action
The NCAA announced that the Division I Council Coordination Committee “issued a waiver to allow schools to reimburse student-athletes for any expenses related to canceled foreign trips and prospective student-athletes for expenses related to canceled official and unofficial visits.” They are taking care of expenses promptly. This is promising.
In-person recruiting is also suspended for Division I coaches. The NCAA also made it known that “details of eligibility relief will be finalized later with input from the Division I membership.” Furthermore, the NCAA stated that “the full Division I Council will discuss and vote on eligibility relief for student-athletes whose seasons were impacted by COVID-19 and other related issues on March 30.”
A glimmer of hope remains, however, as the LA Times reported that Division I athletes who play in the spring will receive eligibility relief. To be clear, that means that spring athletes will be eligible for an additional year to make up for the time they lost. This is good news, especially considering that the spring season hosts some of the most exciting sports the collegiate level has to offer.
Stanford’s Championship Sendoff
Basketball, baseball, and softball have all been compromised. At least women’s volleyball and water polo have been resolved already. Shout out to the Stanford women’s volleyball championship efforts this year. They wiped the floor with Wisconsin. I mean, those ladies took no prisoners en route to another national championship.
The athletes in the middle of their seasons were not so fortunate, but this could make the upcoming spring seasons that much more competitive. As much as March Madness had no clear front runner, the competition may be even tighter in 2021.