Winter athletes deserve fifth year

Baylor redshirt senior forward Freddie Gillespie during Baylor's win over West Virginia 70-59. Brittney Matthews | Multimedia Editor

By Braden Simmons | Reporter

The NCAA has one of the most important decisions to make, and their decision will show how they value college sports for years to come.

The question for seniors of winter sports athletes has resonated in college communities for months already as tournaments have been canceled: can I get a fifth year of eligibility?

The NCAA came to the decision to cancel the both the women’s and men’s tournaments instead of suspending them amid the beginning of the pandemic in the United States. Without a change in their policies, this ends the career of many amazing athletes.

The NCAA has already announced the easy decision. All spring sports athletes that have been canceled due to COVID-19 will be allowed to return for another year. No details have been discussed on how scholarships or rosters will play out, but the changes should just be starting.

College athletes have been given incredible opportunities due to their skills, but at the end of the day, the goal of every college athlete is to hoist the trophy at the end of each year. The virus has inhibited the ability of college athletes nationwide to compete in the tournament and robbed every senior player of their final year.

The obstacles are not hard to overcome if you grant seniors that want eligibility one more year. The NCAA can lift the maximum amount of scholarship players per team for a one-time circumstance.

The NCAA seems to rarely do the right thing when it comes to difficult decisions that carry a heavyweight in athletics, but this choice seems to be an easy one for them to make. To not have a champion in your biggest winter sports robs the athletes of their goal they have trained for the entire season. The only reparation for this would be to let them run back the season if they want to.

Lady Bears Head Coach Kim Mulkey said she hoped the tournament would have been suspended but appreciated the NCAA for considering this option to repair the damage done to seniors.

“None of us know any of the details of the proposal yet,” Mulkey said, “but I am very pleased that there is recognition of the negative impact that this has had on the experience of seniors all across college basketball, both men’s and women’s, and that there is consideration to try to address it.”

Not every athlete will take advantage of this. Some are already thinking about the NBA and WNBA draft and have already announced they plan on entering instead of a possibility of coming back.

To the players that could have proved their draft stock in the tournament, they are the ones that deserve another year to prove they can play professionally. The exposure at the tournament could have helped them as it has helped so many athletes enter the NBA in the past drafts.

As the University of Connecticut women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma said to Bleacher Report, the “unprecedented nature” of the tournament cancellation should result in unprecedented changes made by the NCAA.

These times are unprecedented indeed. The tournaments, that began in 1939, have been canceled for the first time ever. These seniors deserve their one shining moment and deserve a chance to finish their last season the right way.

If the NCAA doesn’t follow through with the right decision, many of our favorite players will not get their chance to win a championship and fulfill their goals that began early in the summer. To the players that gave us so much and may not get to come back to their respective campus, thank you for your hard work and for giving us the ability to watch you dazzle us on the court.