NCAA to provide amnesty year for spring sports athletes

The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to grant an amnesty year to all spring sports athletes who had their seasons wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

All spring athletes who competed or redshirted in 2020 are eligible to receive an additional year of eligibility. In addition, rules will be adjusted for each program to provide additional scholarships in 2021, allowing them to keep on any senior athletes who elect to compete for another season.

Baseball will see an increase in permitted roster sizes in 2021, though the NCAA’s release did not specify the new roster size.

Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21, per the NCAA’s official release.

There will be a catch.

Schools will also be permitted to reduce or eliminate the scholarship aid being provided to those athletes who were seniors in 2020, effectively turning them into walk-ons for their repeat senior seasons.

That scenario could also create an interesting situation in the transfer portal. Since individual institutions will be making the call on scholarships, it’s plausible that an athlete could lose aid from their original program before transferring to another that offers scholarship money.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”

The NCAA also determined that the ruling does not apply to winter sports athletes, who were moving into postseason play at the time that the COVID-19 pandemic began forcing schools, conferences and finally the NCAA itself to cancel all ongoing and upcoming events.

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