Due to COVID-19’s impact on collegiate sports, the NCAA announced that all Division I winter sport student-athletes who compete during the 2020-21 school year will receive an extra year of eligibility and an additional year to complete it. This move is similar to the extra year of athletic eligibility that was given to both spring and fall sport student-athletes earlier this year.
The announcement was made after the NCAA Division I Council met via teleconference on Oct. 13 and 14 and was one of many topics discussed by the council.
In addition to student-athlete eligibility, the council ruled that Division I schools will not be required to sponsor the minimum number of seven sports for both men and women needed for NCAA membership. However, schools will have to indicate on their Sports and Demographics Survey, a form that provides statistical information regarding participation and sponsorship in intercollegiate athletics, that they intended to sponsor the requisite number of sports, but could not due to challenges posed by COVID-19. Schools will also not be required to sponsor sports in the fall, winter, and spring seasons.
The council also passed a blanket waiver for the 2020-21 academic year which will allow conferences to earn an automatic bid in this year’s postponed fall championship tournaments, provided that a minimum of three member schools participated in conference play for the desired sport, save for men’s and women’s basketball.
Speaking to the NCAA website, council chair M. Grace Calhoun said, “The pandemic will continue to impact winter sport seasons in ways we can’t predict. Council members opted to provide for winter sport student-athletes the same flexibility given spring and fall sports previously.” Calhoun continued, “The actions today ensure the continuation of local decision-making in the best interest of each institution and its student-athletes.”
Outside of athletic and membership eligibility, the council also discussed adopting transfer exceptions for student-athletes. Currently, student-athletes in baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and ice hockey are required to sit out for one season upon transferring schools. Graduate transfers are the only exception to this rule, as these student-athletes are individuals who have graduated but still have athletic eligibility.
Recommended by the NCAA’s Working Group on Transfers, this proposal would allow all transferring student-athletes to compete immediately after switching schools without requiring a waiver.
Under this proposal, transferring student-athletes would have to meet their degree requirements and be academically eligible to compete upon completing their transfer. Schools would be required to educate these student-athletes on academic requirements, financial aid policies, and the impact of their decision which would be completed through an online module to help their student-athletes make an informed decision.
The council plans to vote on this measure at the 2021 NCAA Convention in January. If adopted, the proposal would go into effect for student-athletes who seek to be immediately eligible for competition in the 2021-22 academic year.