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We’re in an uncertain time, and that may push more athletes to leave school

The NCAA did the right thing but is it enough for all athletes?

ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

When Syracuse Orange junior Elijah Hughes announced his intentions to enter the NBA Draft a number of fans wondered if there was a chance he’d return to Syracuse. Despite a delayed draft process what would send Hughes and other early-entries back to school? Some will think that not being guaranteed of a draft pick would be enough to send a player like Hughes back to raise his status but what if no one knows when anyone will start playing?

Last night’s ruling allowing spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility did not extend the same benefit to winter sport athletes like basketball.

This ruling also allows schools to exceed scholarship limits for the sports if they decide to extend the scholarships of those athletes who would have exhausted eligibility this spring (they can also choose to cut the athletic scholarships which hopefully no school chooses). We’ll also have to see how the extra year of eligibility impacts the Syracuse spring sports and let’s hope the Orange will honor every athletic scholarship for an athlete who wishes to return in 2020-21.

This NCAA decision combined with the loss of revenue from NCAA Tournament revenues might impact the NCAA’s Timeline for the Name, Image and Likeness legislation which was supposed to be this:

Spring/summer 2020

Continued discussion and feedback in each division.

August 2020

Continued discussion on potential legislation at NCAA governance meetings.

Sept. 1, 2020

Deadline for Divisions II and III Presidents Councils to sponsor legislation.

Nov. 1, 2020

Deadline for submission of legislative proposals in Division I.

Jan. 13-16, 2021

Anticipated vote on legislative solutions by each division at the NCAA Convention.

Student-athletes weren’t going to be eligible to benefit from a change in legislation until the 2021-22 season at the earliest which means staying in the Draft offers the only path to earn income next year. If money is an issue for these players then athletes who decide to stay in the professional ranks would be able to earn money while college players are still unable. I realize that if no one’s playing than income opportunities will be limited but shoe contracts and commercial endorsement opportunities will still happen.

It also stands to reason that the NBA is going to be much better prepared to deal with alternative arrangements for beginning the season. Unlike the NCAA which will have over 300 institutions trying to come together to make decisions, the NBA and its owners have strong leadership in place to adapt to the evolving COVID-19 situation. The NBA would have the flexibility to move games or alter schedules in a way that most college conferences would struggle to match. Players will take their chances that even the G-League could start before college basketball and playing ball is going to be the priority for many of the 2nd round/undrafted group.

If you want to see Elijah Hughes in orange again next November then you should be hoping for one particular thing to happen- a postponed NBA Draft Combine. The NCAA deadline for athletes to withdraw their name from the NBA Draft is ten days after the NBA Draft Combine so if the NBA postpones instead of cancels the Combine, the NCAA deadline would also likely get pushed back. If the Combine is canceled then there’s a good chance the NCAA deadline will be set to occur ten days after the announcement and would leave athletes scrambling to get the feedback to make their decision.

As we all wait to see what happens next I wouldn’t hold your breath on seeing Elijah back in a Syracuse uniform next fall. The silver lining is that we might get to see two loaded lacrosse teams, two nationally-ranked crews, improving tennis and softball squads and a lot of talented track athletes.