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NCAA allows additional year of eligibility for winter-sport athletes

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Winter-sport athletes competing in the 2020-21 season will be granted an additional year of eligibility.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 07 Syracuse at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season is quickly approaching as the first official practice began on Wednesday. Along with the start of basketball practice, a bit of news was announced yesterday that could impact Syracuse next season and beyond.

The NCAA Division I Council voted to allow an extra year of eligibility for all winter-sport athletes. This means that winter-sport athletes can exercise an additional year of eligibility irrespective of how many games he or she plays in during the upcoming 2020-21 season.

Athletes subject to the additional year of eligibility will have a six-year window to play five seasons. While most teams are set to begin play in late November, athletes will be competing in an atypical season, thus the reason for the additional year of eligibility. Due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s possible teams could have games moved or canceled altogether.

So what does this mean for Syracuse?

Any of the 13 scholarship players on this year’s roster will be offered an extra year of eligibility. So yes, you could potentially see Buddy Boeheim play in the 2022-23 season or Joe Girard in the 2023-24 season. Here’s a chart of how this could play out starting in the 2021-22 season.

For fall-sports, seniors who return for an additional year will not count toward the team’s scholarship limit, as The Washington Post points out. In 2022-23 and beyond, however, teams will be subject to their regular scholarship limit. The Division I Council did not specify whether that same rule will apply to winter-sport athletes, but that assumption applies to the chart above.

If everyone returns from the 2020-21 team, Syracuse would have 14 scholarship players with incoming freshman Benny Williams. That would be allowed if the same scholarship rule is applied to winter-sport athletes as fall-sport athletes. The red on the chart is the stop on the scholarship limit, i.e. — Syracuse would have to return to the 13 scholarship limit in 2022-23.

If all eligible players return and Syracuse doesn’t secure another recruit, the Orange would be at the 13 scholarship limit in 2022-23. As we know, it’s likely that at least one player will not exercise his right to return, leave to pursue professional opportunities or transfer to another school. The Division I Council is also expected to vote on one-time transfers in January. If passed, all athletes would be allowed to transfer once without having to take a year in residence.

An additional year of eligibility for the current Syracuse roster could make for some interesting lineups down the road. Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe could return in 2021-22 if they so choose. John Bol Ajak could play at Syracuse until 2025.

Dior Johnson could join a backcourt of Boeheim and Girard in 2022-23. Five years of play would give players a chance to break program records, such as Gerry McNamara’s 400 made 3-point field goal record. Boeheim has made 144 3s in two seasons while Girard made 70 in his first year.

For Syracuse basketball stories and updates, follow @NunesMagician and @JamesSzuba on Twitter