By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer
On Monday, the NCAA Division I Council Committee voted regarding eligibility for winter and spring-sport athletes. The committee decided to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes, but denied an extra year for winter athletes. While this may be controversial in either direction, the NCAA ultimately made the correct decision.
Big 12 student-athletes who compete in spring sports, such as baseball and tennis, had not begun conference play when their seasons were canceled due to COVID-19. This was the case in many conferences across the NCAA.
Extraordinary problems deserve extraordinary solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented cancellation of NCAA athletics. Therefore, it was important to allow spring athletes, especially graduating seniors, to return and have the opportunity to play a full season.
Further, returning seniors in spring sports will be exempt from financial aid limits from their respective universities. This is important because it ensures that the athletic scholarship process is not disturbed and that a normal number of scholarships will still be given out to incoming freshmen.
On the other side of the vote, the decision to deny eligibility to winter-sport athletes is unfortunate but understandable. These athletes finished their full regular season, and most Division I teams were not going to make the national tournaments, either for basketball or other sports such as wrestling.
Certainly, Baylor was hit hard by the cancellation of winter sports, as both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were top five in the country and had a chance to compete for both a Big 12 Tournament championship as well as a national championship.
Outside of basketball, University of Iowa wrestler Spencer Lee was getting ready to compete for a third straight national championship. If he won this year, he would have had an opportunity to be just the fifth wrestler ever to win four national championships.
However, as tough as it is for winter-sport seniors who had an opportunity to compete for a championship this season, the NCAA did the right thing.
It would simply have been unreasonable to allow an extra year for every winter athlete, especially when only 64 out of 353 Division I teams make the NCAA tournament in each sport. And there was no way the NCAA could have provided eligibility to athletes from certain schools, while denying it to those whose seasons were already over.
The NCAA has made a lot of mistakes in its years of college athletics oversight, but the decision the committee made Monday, however tough it may have been, was the correct one.