Winter sport athletes have been granted an extra year of eligibility from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns.
The Division I Council decided to extend eligibility in a teleconference call. Additionally, in that meeting, the Council ruled college football teams no longer need to have a .500 record to qualify for bowl games.
In the United States, COVID-19 cases are on the rise. The nation had its highest amount of new cases since July on Friday at 70,078, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an interview with CNN, epidemiologist Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said, “This surge has the potential to be way worse than it was than either the spring or the summer."
In the conference call, 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. The actions today ensure the continuation of local decision-making in the best interest of each institution and its student-athletes.”
In an interview with ESPN, Calhoun said, “We felt it was important to make this decision now so student-athletes had the peace of mind to go into this season and compete. They know they can regain that eligibility and have their clock automatically extended, so they're not taking that chance on the front end if they choose to compete."
Iowa wrestling 125-pounder Spencer Lee commented on the Council's decision. “The first thing I thought of wasn’t even myself, it’s that I get to be with all these goofballs next year,” he said, according to Hawk Central.
Along with Lee, countless student-athletes have the opportunity to compete for their schools and be around their teammates for another year.
University of Connecticut head women’s basketball coach Luigi "Geno" Auriemma doesn’t oppose this ruling but sees the challenges it can present.
“I think you're going to have a lot of coaches that are going to go, 'You're putting me in a tough spot here.' Because now you're going to have some seniors go, 'Hey, I want to stay.' And then you've got a coach going, like, 'I wasn't planning on you staying.' Now, what are you going to do — turn the kid out?” he said, according to ESPN.
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