Report: NCAA to Grant Extra Year of Eligibility to Spring Sports

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(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

On Thursday, basically the entire sports world came to a screeching halt. Not only did professional leagues such as the NBA, MLB, and NHL postpone their seasons, but the NCAA canceled the upcoming NCAA Tournament in men’s and women’s basketball and also canceled all spring and winter sports championships.

For seniors in spring and winter sports, their final year at their respective universities had suddenly come to an end. But the NCAA is willing to help correct that for any seniors who wish to return to school for another year, at least in spring sports.

According to Jeff Goodman of WatchStadium.com, the NCAA’s Council Coordination Committee has agreed to give all players involved in spring sports across college athletics another year of eligibility. That includes sports such as baseball and softball. Right now, winter sports, such as basketball and hockey, are still being discussed.

Tennessee’s baseball roster includes three seniors in Pete Derkay, Will Heflin, and Landon Gray. The Vols also have a number of juniors who were in the midst of strong seasons and who have MLB Draft hopes, such as Alerick Soularie, who took to Twitter on Thursday to air his frustrations with the NCAA’s decision to cancel the College World Series and the SEC to postpone the regular season for the remainder of the month.

In softball, the Lady Vols feature five seniors — Jenna Holcomb, Tianna Batts, Chelsea Seggern, Calin Hannon, and Treasuary Poindexter.

The NCAA will likely have to figure out how to navigate the scholarship situations in all spring sports as well. Right now, each spring sport has a hard cap on the amount of scholarships they can hand out and the roster size they can have. With the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to spring athletes, recruiting and other scholarship allocation issues will have to be addressed. Will the schools get extra scholarships to hand out, or will coaches be forced to tell recruits promised a full or partial scholarship that they will now be receiving no money?

And those are just with the spring sports.

Should the NCAA extend the same extra year of eligibility to winter sports, then that would cause the same issues with sports like men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, gymnastics, and others.

The conversation around winter sports is a little more complicated than the spring sports, however.

For spring sports, their postseasons have been canceled months in advance, and their regular seasons have been halted midway through the year. But for athletes in winter sports, they’ve played the vast majority of their season, and some have already participated in conference tournaments. The only things canceled for winter sports were postseason play.

Still, those athletes were denied a chance to pursue either a conference or a national championship. For teams like Dayton, San Diego State, and ETSU — teams enjoying dream seasons — those types of opportunities don’t come around every year like they do for programs like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and other blue bloods.

For Tennessee, granting another year of eligibility to both basketball teams would present an interesting challenge in recruiting and roster management.

In men’s hoops, the Vols had one active scholarship senior this past season, and that was Jordan Bowden. Should the NCAA extend eligibility for winter athletes, Bowden could opt to return next season and try and raise his stock after a disappointing 2019-20 campaign.

But Bowden isn’t the only Vol who could benefit from that.

Lamonte Turner’s UT career came to an unfortunate end in December when he elected to have surgery on his shoulder to address an ongoing issue he’s had for years. What if Turner gets healthy enough to play again? Would he be eligible to return to Tennessee for another year?

If one or both of those seniors do return, how does that affect Tennessee’s three fall signees in the 2020 class?

Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer were signed to come in and fill the spots Bowden and Turner were leaving behind on the roster. If either or both of those seniors return, would Johnson and Springer be allowed out of their National Letters of Intent? Would UT and the rest of the basketball world be allowed extra scholarships?

The Lady Vols also had two seniors on their team this year — forwards Lou Brown and Kamera Harris. Head coach Kellie Harper has already secured signatures from two prospects in the 2020 class in the fall, so again, the questions for the Lady Vols would be the same: Would those two signees be allowed to back out of their commitments? Would Tennessee and other women’s programs be granted extra scholarships to hand out?

It remains to be seen if winter sports will get the same treatment as spring sports, but for now, Tennessee’s baseball and softball teams should be able to retain a year of eligibility for their athletes.

Here’s a full list of winter and spring sports in the NCAA:

Winter Sports

  • Men’s and women’s basketball
  • Women’s bowling
  • Men’s and women’s fencing
  • Men’s and women’s gymnastics
  • Men’s and women’s ice hockey
  • Men’s, women’s, and mixed skiing
  • Men’s and women’s swimming and diving
  • Men’s and women’s indoor track and field
  • Men’s wrestling

Spring Sports

  • Men’s baseball
  • Women’s softball
  • Men’s and women’s golf
  • Men’s and women’s lacrosse
  • Women’s rowing
  • Men’s and women’s tennis
  • Men’s and women’s outdoor track and field
  • Men’s volleyball and women’s beach volleyball
  • Women’s water polo