NCAA to vote Monday on eligibility forgiveness

A decision on eligibility forgiveness is just around the corner.

The NCAA Division I Council will vote Monday on whether to grant student-athletes an extra year of eligibility after the remainder of the competition calendar was canceled on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NCAA has yet to respond to a request for comment, but The Associated Press first reported the news Friday after obtaining a memo sent Thursday by the NCAA to conference administrators. Several golf coaches confirmed to Friday that they had been informed about the meeting as well.

It is believed that the NCAA council, which has representatives from all 32 conferences, will vote to approve eligibility forgiveness after council leadership previously deemed it “appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports.”

“The committee agreed that it will be appropriate to grant relief for the use of a season of competition for student-athletes who have participated in spring sports,” the NCAA said in a statement two weeks ago. “The committee recognizes that several issues need to be addressed related to providing an additional season of competition, including financial aid implications. The committee will also discuss issues related to seasons of competition for winter sport student-athletes who were unable to participate in conference and NCAA championships.”

NCAA to grant extra year of eligibility to spring athletes

The bigger questions surround those particulars.

Who will receive an extra year? The NCAA could decide to grant forgiveness to all student-athletes, or just seniors. Winter-sport athletes would likely not be included.

Who will pay for it? While many are calling for the NCAA to foot the bill, the more likely scenario is that falls on the schools and student-athletes.

How will it affect scholarship limitations? Division I men’s golf is allotted four-and-a-half scholarships per season while women’s golf receives six. With the Class of 2020 already signed, the NCAA would have to exempt returning seniors from counting toward those numbers for the 2020-21 season. After that, it’s likely that schools will have to figure out how to adjust.

What if a team doesn’t want to a senior back? That’s possible and would be an argument against allowing eligibility forgiveness. Schools certainly don’t want to pay for a returning senior if it is ready to move on from that player.

Could a player transfer? If seniors are allowed to come back, many could do so for different teams through the transfer portal. Of course, the NCAA could not allow that, or force transfers to count toward their new team’s scholarship total next season to prevent teams from stacking the deck.

As noted by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who voiced his support for eligibility forgiveness during a March 13 conference call: “There are a number of different issues that need to be worked out, taking into consideration the diversity of our membership. Bottom line is we need to do what’s right for the student-athlete.”

Hopefully, all of these questions will be answered Monday, as seniors across the country wait on what will surely be a momentous decision.

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