West Coast Conference (WCC) student-athletes’ athletic eligibility was placed in jeopardy on Aug. 13 as the conference announced that fall competition prior to Sept. 24 would be delayed until the spring. University sports affected by this announcement include men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. Men’s and women’s basketball, which are both scheduled for a November tip-off, were not impacted by this decision.
In response to conference cancellations, on Aug. 21, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) board of directors voted for fall sport student-athletes to be granted an additional year of athletic eligibility and an additional year to approve said eligibility through a blanket waiver. This move is similar to the waiver that was passed last semester for spring sport student-athletes.
The NCAA grants every Division 1 athlete five calendar years during which they are able to play four seasons of competition. Once an athlete enrolls at a university, their eligibility begins. After competing for four seasons, a student is no longer considered a collegiate athlete.
With the blanket waiver in place, a conference or university athletics cancellation will not count toward a student-athlete’s guaranteed five years of eligibility.
Easton Harryman, a sophomore and member of the men’s soccer team, said that while he and his teammates are trying to be optimistic about resuming play in the spring, if spring competition is also canceled, the extra year of eligibility could be very beneficial. “We can choose to stay and further our academic careers while playing on one of the best teams in the country. Or even have one more year of final preparation before taking the next step to becoming a professional,” he said.
An NCAA press release states that schools are unable to cancel or reduce a student-athlete’s scholarship if they opt out of playing due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. Additionally, if a senior fall sport student-athlete exercises their extra year of eligibility, their scholarship will not count toward team scholarship limits for the next season.
The statement went on to say that the NCAA hopes to hold “scaled-back championships for fall sports in the spring” in accordance with local, state, and federal health officials. Bracket sizes and the composition of these tournaments will have to be approved by the NCAA board.
While USF teams will not be competing this fall, they are still using this time to train for next year. Freshman triathlete Molly Elliot said, “Although we are not able to race, I feel fortunate to be able to train and build team culture.”
Harryman echoed this sentiment and said, “It’s hard to not have any games or playoffs to look forward to. But it gives us plenty of time to prepare for when they give the ‘OK’ and we can play again.”