The NCAA Division I Board of Directors officially passed a waiver Friday to grant an extra year of eligibility to fall sports athletes who had their fall sports season canceled or postponed due tothe COVID-19 pandemic.
The Board of Directors also said in a press release after Friday's meeting that the NCAA is working toward creating a safe way to still hold fall championships in the spring.
“We want to provide opportunities for student-athletes whenever possible,” said Denise Trauth, Acting Board Chair and President of Texas State University, in the release. “We understand it will be complicated and different, and we’re not certain how it will look. But we believe it’s important to try to give students that championship experience.”
This decision will apply to all fall sports athletes regardless of if they play or not. So, if a fall sports athlete plays in every game during either the fall or spring season, this year will not count toward their eligibility requirements.
A similar waiver was passed for spring sports athletes after their season was canceled in March amid the pandemic. They were all given an extra year of eligibility regardless of how many games they played.
In turn, there comes a potential issue with roster size since there will not be as many departing players. For example, all IU incoming-freshman athletes will have the same eligibility as then-sophomores come fall 2021. The roster changes that will come from this additional year may also lead to an increase in Transfers nationally.
The Big 10 and Pac-12 are the only Power Five conferences to announce postponed seasons along with a number of smaller conferences. The Big 10 said it would consider playing fall sports in the spring, but no clear plan has been laid out for how that would be done.
The NCAA also passed protections for athletes, including prohibiting schools to require athletes to waive legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of participation and prohibiting schools from canceling or minimizing scholarships if a sport chooses not to play because of COVID-19. The NCAA also said that the financial aid of current seniors will not count against team limits next academic year should they choose to use the additional year.
There is still no information on winter sports yet, and this waiver does not apply to winter sports athletes. As the NCAA continues to delegate cancellation responsibility onto the individual conferences, decisions on the future of fall sports largely depends on the positivity rates as students return to campus across the country,— with IU starting classes on Monday.