The NCAA is moving forward quickly with a proposal that will help athletes who are seniors in spring sports return in 2021 after their seasons were cut short due to the threat of COVID-19.
The NCAA’s Council Coordination Committee has cleared the way, stating on Friday that “eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports.” The NCAA statement admitted that a number of details must be worked out but the ruling will allow seniors to return in the 2020-21 academic year and compete on the field.
“I’m pleasantly surprised how quickly they reacted on it to make a recommendation, allowing a redshirt for this year for the spring sports,” American Baseball Coaches Association executive director Craig Keilitz told the Osceola. “That was a great move and the first move that needed to happen.”
FSU softball players were also vocal in making their requests on social media, with Leslie Farris stating on Twitter on Thursday that she was “praying that the @NCAA find a way to give us our time back. My heart goes out to all of us.” Another FSU softball senior, Elizabeth Mason, had started a change.org petition and received more than 25,000 signatures by late Friday afternoon.
The NCAA would have to expand the size of rosters and potentially give allowances to the scholarship limitations, especially in baseball (just 11.7 scholarships annually are allowed).
“I would like us to start looking at giving seniors the same scholarship this year but not have it count toward the 11.7,” Keilitz said. “Now that’s going to cost a lot of money. But we talked over and over about doing right by the student-athlete.”
FSU baseball has a large group of seniors: pitchers Antonio Velez, Chase Haney and Clayton Kwiatkowski and infielders Carter Smith and Nico Baldor. Beyond Mason and Farris, FSU softball also has three more seniors: Anna Shelnutt, Cassidy Davis and Caylan Arnold. Athletes in golf, tennis, track & field and beach volleyball would also benefit.
Keilitz, who spent a year at FSU working in compliance in the early 1990s, said the ABCA is consulting with a group of 20 coaches from around the nation. He is requesting feedback and then will conduct a national survey of college head coaches. The goal is to put a proposal in front of college athletics directors in 4-6 weeks.
Among the big questions in baseball that Keilitz is seeking feedback on are increasing the 11.7 scholarship limit, raising the number of athletes who can receive aid from 27 and potentially an increase in the roster size from 35.
The proposal will likely need debate and financial analysis, but it’s clear that there is serious discussion toward allowing students to complete their athletic careers – which in turn will encourage them to complete their work toward a college degree, too.
Spring break, what next?
FSU athletes, for the most part, will be leaving campus for spring break before returning for online classes on March 23. Classes will be online for at least two weeks after spring break at FSU.
An FSU athletics spokesperson clarified that any athlete who leaves campus must self-quarantine upon return for 14 days from being allowed to use an on-campus weight room.
FSU’s pro day canceled
FSU was set to hold a pro day on March 23 on campus, but that event has been indefinitely postponed.
The NFL Network reported that there will be no more pre-draft visits after Friday. Another report stated that on-campus visits are off due to travel restrictions put on scouts.
For the time being, the NFL Draft is still on for April 23.
Recruiting dead period
The NCAA has established a temporary dead period through April 15 for all sports. That means no visits, evaluations or contact is allowed.
SEC pushes date back to April 15
The SEC announced on Friday that it will not re-start practices or games until April 15, pushing back from its date of March 30 that was set recently.