The NCAA Division I Council on Monday, March 30, approved a measure that will allow spring sport athletes an extra season of eligibility, a result of seasons being canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now the question for North Dakota State head baseball coach Tod Brown: How will the ruling affect his team?
The Bison had nine seniors and Brown said all plan to graduate in May. The NCAA stipulation does allow that if a senior were to return, it would not count against the yearly maximum 11.7 scholarships Division I baseball schools are allowed.
“But if all nine wanted to come back, who is going to pay for that and at this point nobody knows,” Brown said.
He said he’s had talks with some players who are “iffy” about coming back.
“In the next week or two, we’ll have some more intense conversations once the funding piece gets answered,” Brown said. “That will be a major decision for a person who has already graduated. If they receive athletic aid, that might play into them coming back. But if they aren’t, then that might play back into it, too.”
The NCAA also made an extension to the five-year athletic clock, the rule that allows athletes to have five years for four seasons of eligibility. Essentially, it extends each spring sport athlete’s clock by one year.
Moreover, because of expected larger rosters next season, the NCAA said returning seniors will not count against the 35-man roster cap. Technically, NDSU could have 44 rostered players next year.
“At the end of the day, all spring athletes can have their year back and that’s really good news,” Brown said.
NDSU softball has four seniors and all have indicated to head coach Darren Mueller they plan to graduate, although standout shortstop Montana DeCamp is spending next year at NDSU student teaching.
Athletes on the Bison men’s and women’s track and field teams, said head women’s coach Stevie Keller, were in a wait-and-see mode with the NCAA ruling.
“There will be a lot of conversations the next few days,” Keller said. “Looks like the university will have to make a decision on how they want to handle this. This is going to affect numbers and recruiting for several years.”
In other words, the current freshmen could be combined with incoming freshmen next season. In baseball, Brown said that’s going to be an issue throughout the country.
“You have five classes and you’re putting them into four years,” he said. “But I think there could be some attrition too. Maybe there are guys not playing much at different schools; maybe they’re third or fourth string and it might be time to pursue and finish up their academic career.”
Earlier in the day, the NCAA Student-Athletic Advisory Committee representing the Power Five conferences released a statement outlining three recommendations: NCAA student-athletes “desperately” need help for immediate support for food and housing; all athletes who did not have an opportunity to complete their championship seasons have an extra year of eligibility; and returning seniors should have their scholarships renewed and not count against NCAA financial aid limits.
That letter had an impact on the NCAA Council, according to Kendall Rogers, the co-managing editor of D1baseball.com.
“The vote is shockingly in favor of it,” Rogers tweeted. “A lot of conferences shifted to the opposite direction.”
Brown said he was surprised the NCAA came out in favor after hearing some conferences were against it in the last week or so.
“I thought two weeks ago it was a slam dunk,” he said.
Winter sports were not included in the NCAA decision because most of their regular seasons were completed.