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NCAA D1 Council recommends additional eligibility, spring championships for fall sports

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This could be seismic decision in the evolving COVID-19 response.

Western Michigan v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the B1G officially announced that it would be moving fall sports — football included — to the spring. After many B1G athletes were involved with the “We Want to Play” campaign (and Ohio State QB Justin Fields collected thousands of signatures), it felt like this was going to be the largest college sports story of the day.

Not even close.

The Division I Council (a group of Athletic Directors and Conference Executives) made several landscape shaping recommendations for fall sports as the country and schools deal with the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Among them: Moving fall championships to the spring, an additional year of eligibility for all athletes, and an additional year to complete said eligibility.

Now, while this is an official recommendation, it is far from guaranteed, as Pete Thamel elaborates on.

What’s crazy is that there were even more high-impact recommendations made, including:

  • Schools should be prohibited from requiring student-athletes to waive legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation. This has been floated by several parties, on both sides of the field.
  • Schools should be prohibited from canceling or reducing athletics scholarships if a college athlete in any sport opts not to participate due to COVID-19.
  • The financial aid of fall sport senior student-athletes who take advantage of the additional year of eligibility and extended clock should not count against team limits in 2021-22.

It’s a lot to digest.

From a macro level, this is undoubtedly a good thing for the players, who the NCAA is supposed to serve in the first place. Throughout the last few weeks, athletes have made their voices heard on both sides of the conversation and have felt the burden of pushing schools and conferences into decisions. These recommendations give the students a chance to make a decision that’s best for them, and not lose any athletic scholarships or benefits.

Focusing in on Syracuse, this gives fall athletes in their junior or senior years another year to potentially play for the Orange. That’s huge for all athletes who don’t have a lucrative professional options, and for football players not ready to make the NFL jump even if their eligibility would’ve otherwise been up (so if the 2020 football season happens and Tommy DeVito decides he’s sticking around through 2022 now, he stands a good chance to set fire to the career football record books).

Finally, this all feels as if the NCAA is trying to say that there are too many different voices and policies in play to host the first games in a few weeks. A perfect example is Syracuse:

Football players want every team on their schedule to take health and safety as seriously as they are. Opponents (Liberty, in particular) are not. This is the NCAA trying to buy more time to create and find enforcement for a blanket policy for all D1 schools.

The not-so-subtle takeaway here is that this is a pretty strong indication that sports will not take place this fall at the collegiate level. I don’t think there are many parties that are happy with this, but I do feel some sense of relief that the health and safety of the student athletes is at the forefront of the NCAA decision-making right now.