College athletes in spring sports and potentially those in winter sports could get an extra year of eligibility to compensate for the cancellation of sports because of the coronavirus, the NCAA informed member schools on Friday.
The Division I Board of Governors directed schools in Divisions I, II and III to "enact modifications, changes or waivers to legislation and rules where appropriate to provide necessary relief" because of COVID-19.
The NCAA said that its Council Coordination Committee agreed that it would be appropriate for spring athletes to be granted "an additional season of competition, including financial aid implications." It added that the committee will discuss issues related to winter sports athletes "who were unable to participate in conference and NCAA championships."
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he is in favor of the proposal.
"I’m definitely in support of an extra year or semester of eligibility for our spring-sport athletes," he said on a conference call Friday. "We haven’t delved into the details around that, so I’m kind of wavering on a whole academic year versus a spring sport. One of the other elements is some of those have graduated, so what do they do academically? We’ll have to figure that out.
"I haven’t looked at the winter sports. My assumption, just off the top of my head, I would be supportive of that as well. But that’s an exercise I’ve got to do."
Smith said that he concluded Monday that canceling the rest of the sports calendar was the proper thing to do. But he added that he kept thinking about senior athletes such as basketball player Andre Wesson or tennis player Kyle Seelig, and that pained him.
"That was the hardest part of the whole deal, me knowing the athletes the way I do," Smith said.
The Ohio State baseball team was scheduled to have its home opener on Friday. Instead, its season is over. Like Smith, coach Greg Beals applauded the NCAA proposal to add eligibility.
"I believe it’s the right thing to do," he said. "These guys barely got 25% of their season in. To have that burn a year of eligibility is tough.
"Obviously, there's a lot of work that needs to be done on the back side of that decision what roster limits are, what scholarship limits are and some of those other factors but I think the main decision of granting eligibility is the right decision."
The NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on Thursday as part of a wave of cancellations that has essentially shut down the sports world. The Big Ten announced that it had canceled all conference and nonconference competition.