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NCAA Gives Blanket Eligibility Waiver


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NCAA Division I Council Gives Blanket Eligibility Waiver

COLUMNS Kendall Rogers - March 30, 2020





The NCAA Division I Council on Monday surprised many across the country when it voted to approve a blanket waiver for all student-athletes competing in spring sports.

The D1 Council’s difficult decision comes on the heels of a trying last three weeks in college athletics and for the country as a whole. And though the NCAA Division I Coordination Committee came out immediately after the cancelation of the spring season saying they ‘agreed’ with the idea of giving all spring student athletes a year of eligibility back, the feeling amongst administrators all week was that it would be a tough sell during the Council meeting because of the uncertainty regarding football season.

On the flip side, it would’ve looked rather odd to go against every other division in the NCAA structure and even NJCAA, which all granted an extra year of eligibility to all spring student athletes. The Council decided not to go against the grain on the issue and followed suit with the rest of the divisions. The Council was likely influenced by a letter circulating from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which you can find, here.

The Council’s decision on Monday has wide-ranging ramifications on college baseball.

First, seniors can return for another season and it will not count against a program’s 11.7 scholarships, 35-man roster or 27 counters. However, the school reserves the right to pay a returning senior whatever they want as long as it doesn’t exceed the scholarship amount they had in 2020. The school could give a student athlete zero percent if they wanted to, certainly leading to some awkward conversations and tough decisions for student athletes. Ultimately, head coaches will have some difficult decisions to make.

Second, the NCAA has lifted the roster cap in college baseball to accommodate the influx of returning seniors. So, for instance, if a team has nine returning seniors, a team would be permitted to have a roster of 44 players, and so on.

This ruling has huge ramifications for a program like TCU, which could return up to eight seniors, including five fifth-year seniors.

Jim-Schlossnagle-TCU-1.jpgTCU will return up to eight seniors in 2021. (Shotgun Spratling)


“At this time, we are still waiting to hear from our NCAA compliance office on the exact structure of what our roster and scholarship situation will look like, but, in general, I believe this is a huge win for college baseball,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “ Anytime you have more good players staying in college baseball and more good players coming into college baseball, that can only help increase the level of play to an extremely high level.

Certainly, there will be some challenges in roster and scholarship management. However, I couldn’t be more excited for our senior class,” he continued. “It’s such a special group of young men that we get to serve and experience another year of college athletics with.”

Today’s decision has ramifications with the MLB draft, too. Had the NCAA decided not to give anyone or only seniors eligibility relief, highly touted college junior prospects would’ve had little leverage entering a shortened, five-round draft. They could either sign for a potentially low-ball offer or return to college for another season with a chance of getting significantly less money next summer.  This decision is a big win for those players. It also allows some juniors to return for another year and avoid maxing out at $20K as a signing bonus — the maximum bonus anyone drafted outside the limited rounds can get this summer. Major League Baseball has yet to decide on a round total, but it could be anywhere from five-to-10.

Some additional questions remain about today’s D1 Council. What does it mean for incoming junior college transfers and existing graduate transfers? Though one compliance officer told D1Baseball Monday night that junior college transfers would not get a year back when they arrived at a Division I program this fall, a Council rep was unsure about that and needed to seek further clarification. Furthermore, the Council rep also needed further clarification on how graduate transfers would be handled under today’s ruling.

Another interesting story line to follow moving forward is the timing of the ruling/vote on a one-time transfer rule. That movement gained some serious steam before COVID took the nation by storm. And, now, with many college baseball programs and other spring sports having some incredibly difficult decisions to make from a roster management standpoint, you could see this issue move back to the front burner over the next couple of months.

Over the weekend and earlier Monday, all signs pointed toward the D1 Council likely compromising and only giving seniors a year of relief. But in the end, the Council, overwhelming, voted to give everyone a year of eligibility relief.

It might cause some roster headaches, but it was the right move.

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