With Extra Year Now in Effect, Questions Abound for NCAA D-1 Schools and Athletes

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WACO, Texas — The NCAA Division One Council voted on Monday to allow spring sport athletes to get back a year of eligibility after their seasons were cut short by COVID-19.

“Lots of decisions have to be made,” Baylor head softball Coach Glenn Moore said. “But to have the opportunity to come back and play another year especially for our seniors I think was huge.”

While this is beneficial for the athletes who missed out on much of their senior seasons there are a lot of questions especially for equivalency sports. Equivalency sports are sports that produce less revenue for the school like baseball, softball and track and those sports do not receive full scholarships. Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork said for athletes like this it’s not a cut and dried decision.

“For the equivalency sports, let’s just say that a senior was on a 25% scholarship, and they are graduating in May, and we say hey we want you to come back, here’s your 25% scholarship, they have to come up with the other 75%,” he said.

Seniors who come back for an extra year can earn the same, or less scholarship money than what was slated for them in 2020 and it will not go against a program’s scholarship or roster limits. Baylor Head Baseball Coach Steve Rodriguez said he wants to see all of his seniors come back for another year, but there are a lot of factors outside of baseball that weigh into their decision.

“These seniors have been paramount to who we are as a coaching staff and our team and their success and I would love to have every one of them back but I also know it’s just not my decision,” Rodriguez said. “There are parents who have to pay for it and there’s things that really have to happen alongside that before all those decisions are made.”

One of those decisions is the Major League Baseball Draft which is in flux right now being cut from 40-rounds to as few as possibly five, throwing a wrench into the decision-making process for his players.

“A lot of things have happened here like within the past week that have kind of really changed the landscape of college baseball,” Rodriguez said. “With it [The MLB Draft] possibly being anywhere from five to 10 rounds that’s really going to limit the amount of guys actually drafted, and then the possibility of signing free agents, it kind of leaves a lot up in the air.”

While those seniors that return won’t count against the scholarship limit for the program, coaches like Moore at Baylor already have a big roster and with the incoming freshman it’s really going to swell.

“Every underclassmen was expecting attrition to take place,” Moore said. “Maybe have more opportunity for playing time and we already had a big roster so we’ve got to work those things out.”

For college baseball coaches like Rodriguez massaging the roster is nothing all that new to them. It’s something they do on a yearly basis as their rosters and recruits are picked off by major league teams in the draft.

“I think you can talk to every baseball coach in the country, and we’ve become really good at managing our rosters just because of the constant inability to know what’s going to happen with the major league draft,” Rodriguez said. “I think this is just gonna be another test for us.”

Of the coaches and administrators I’ve talked to this is a step in the right direction for the student athlete, and now they will just have to figure out what works best for each school and each individual athlete.

“We wanted the ultimate flexibility,” A&M’s Bjork said. “Now it’s up to our coaches and our administration we all sit down, we figure out you know where do they want to go with this.“

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