NCAA gets it right in granting extra season to spring collegiate athletes

BY DON BEANE, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/10/20

Like most in the sports media industry, I have been a critic of the NCAA and its barrage of inconsistent decisions and rulings through the years.

As a former collegiate athlete, of course it’s …

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NCAA gets it right in granting extra season to spring collegiate athletes

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Like most in the sports media industry, I have been a critic of the NCAA and its barrage of inconsistent decisions and rulings through the years.

As a former collegiate athlete, of course it’s something that’s been close to my heart.

The coronavirus and its effects on everything in life, including sports, has been well-documented; it’s just a way of life right now, and it’s ongoing and will continue to be that way for a long time, likely even when things begin to transition back to some sense of normalcy.

It’s unfortunate that the ACC and NCAA basketball tournaments were canceled along with the other winter sports. The tournaments would have been great, as always, especially on the men’s side with no clear-cut favorites. But it is what it is and those were the cards dealt. It’s gutwrenching for the seniors to go out that way, but they did play the entire regular season and the NCAA ruling to not grant them an extra year of eligibility was correct.

Now could the NCAA go 2-for-2 in the same day? Vegas odds would have probably put it at 50 percent going into the day and given its past history of head-scratching, pulling out hair, making you want to scream and say words that your mama would wash your mouth out with soap, decisions.

But alas, the NCAA, which brings in more than $1 billion in revenue a year, went 2-for-2, batting a thousand a week ago Monday, when the governing body of collegiate athletics voted to grant spring collegiate athletes an extra year of eligibility.

Yes, the NCAA got it right.

And they had to, if not for any other reason, than for a ruling it made in 2019 before the NCAA football season later that fall. In that decision, the NCAA installed a new rule which allowed football players to participate in four games while also retaining their redshirt status. That’s roughly 33.3 percent of the season.

So how could/would the NCAA explain not granting its spring players an extra year of eligibility when baseball, softball and all other sports had played fewer than 33.3 percent of their respective games, most in the 20-25 percent range? It simply could not and should not have been done, and the NCAA Council came through.

The schools also are allowed some freedom when it comes to scholarship management. Underclassmen will continue to receive the same scholarship aid they received in the previous season, but schools have the freedom to give less aid to seniors coming back for a second senior season. Schools can also get help from the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for those scholarships if they need to.

Now while that’s great, it certainly won’t be as easy as it seems.

Obviously some schools athletic budgets are much higher than others. For example, in 2017-2018 the University of Texas boasted a budget of $219,402,579, according to USA Today, while locally UNC had revenue of $104,571,404; N.C. State had revenue of $87,976,532; East Carolina received $46,861,190; Charlotte received $37,919,619; Appalachian State received $36,940,867; UNC-Wilimington received $18,815,244; UNC-Greensboro received $17,115,914; Western Carolina received $14,720,226; North Carolina A&T received $14,420,476; North Carolina Central received $13,861,765; and UNC-Asheville received $8,868,914.

The obvious disparity is glaring on a national and even a state level, while also displaying why North Carolilna A&T is jumping to Division 1 football and exactly what schools like UNC-Wilimington, UNC-Asheville and UNC-Greensboro are missing by not fielding football programs.

So exactly how these schools will pay for the athletes to stay will be the issue, and how much the NCAA is going to help, is also a bit foggy at the present time. You have to remember, all these seniors who opt to return were set to be replaced by incoming recruits, possibly sending rosters of 35 in baseball to 45 or more. How would you like to be a coach with four or five players now at each position?

The same could be said of soccer, tennis, golf, track, softball, and all the sports played in the spring. It’s going to be an issue, a challenge, but in the end, it will be all worked through, in my opinion, and in the end it was all that could be done.

The NCAA faces some interesting rulings ahead in April, such as the grad transfer and one transfer rulings that they will also deal with, as well as name, imaging and likeness for student-athletes. To me this is setting up a lot of chaos in the future, especially the one transfer and the name, imaging and likeness. You want to talk about some Wild West, under-the-table dealings — good luck with that.

The biggest issue for me that hopefully will be corrected down the line is full scholarships across the board for student athletes. Why do volleyball, football, basketball players get full rides while baseball and softball get 11.7 and 12.0 scholarships per year. Makes no sense whatsoever and it’s time to address that over everything else.

But for now, at least this week, the NCAA has done its job and made two good decisions in difficult times. Maybe that’s a ray of sunshine and hope for the future.


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