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Will Eligibility Relief Impact Athletic Scholarships?

Will Eligibility Relief Impact Athletic Scholarships?

On March 30, the NCAA Division 1 Council vote to grant spring sport athletes an additional year of eligibility. Some details to note about this decision are:

  • The decision to offer an additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools
  • Seniors who return will not count towards the team’s scholarship limit
  • Roster limit is increased for baseball (the only spring sport with roster limits)
  • Winter sports will not receive eligibility relief

How will this change college coaches’ recruiting needs for spring sports?

While the number of spring sport athletes that plan to return and compete for a fifth year is still unknown, eligibility relief has the potential to change recruiting needs for the 2021 class at various college programs. If a recruit is already committed or is speaking with a program they plan to commit to, they should regularly communicate with the coaching staff.

What does this mean for athletic scholarships?

The NCAA has placed the decision to offer an additional year of eligibility in the hands of individual schools, leaving college coaches with two major questions: How many current roster holders will return for a fifth year, and who’s going to pay for it?

In a recent Facebook Live with NCSA, legendary UCLA softball coach Sue Enquist discussed the steps college coaches are taking to get answers:

  • Connect with the athletic department: The first order of business is to determine if the school plans to offer eligibility relief. If yes, the coaching staff and athletic department need to work together to establish a budget. Once the coaching staff has an understanding of their budget, they will have a better idea of how their recruiting efforts will be impacted.
  • Connect with 2020 college seniors: Some seniors have already announced whether they plan to return or not for a fifth year, but the majority of spring sport athletes are still weighing their options. Until all senior student-athletes make their decision, coaches won’t have a full picture of their 2020-21 roster and recruiting needs.
  • Calculate cost: Once college coaches receive their official budget and know which 2020 seniors intend to return, if any, they will have a better understanding of roster and scholarship availability for recruits.

The domino effect

While seniors spring sport athletes have only months to determine whether they will return for a fifth year, the NCAA’s eligibility relief creates a domino effect. Over the next few years, spring sport athlete who were on the 2019-2020 college roster and impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will have the opportunity to compete for a fifth year, if their school elects to grant eligibility relief. When current college juniors and underclassman become seniors, they will have the same opportunity to return for a fifth year.

While losing a competition season, mixed with months of quarantining, is frustrating, recruits should remain optimistic. While student-athletes may not have control over eligibility relief and scholarship budgets, it’s important to focus on what they can control, which includes themselves and how they manage their recruiting process.

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