College Basketball Senior Eligibility is More Confusing than Imagined During Pandemic

Image via Stevenson University

By Jordan Moore

The 2020 college basketball season at all levels of NCAA competition was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic. From freshman ending their first season on an odd note to seniors having their season abruptly ended with no warning, fairness of whether or not to give an extra year of eligibility to winter sport athletes is complicated.

Men’s and women’s winter sports around the country were faced with such a harsh ending to their season. With most winter sports, specifically basketball entering their postseasons, student-athletes were not able to live out their dream of competing for a national championship. As the calls for winter sport athletes to gain an extra year of eligibility reign down on the college athletic world, the idea of giving all seniors their year of eligibility back is a very confusing, and logistical nightmare.

As extremely disappointing as it is, the decision to give collegiate basketball seniors their extra year of eligibility back because they could not compete for a national championship title would be a hard decision to make. Collegiate athletic correspondent Austin Slough from Virginia Commonwealth University has worked in the collegiate sports media field throughout the last two years. Slough, while he says he feels for the winter sport athletes, says that giving an extra year of eligibility to basketball athletes is a bad idea.

“It would be like the rich getting richer. College administrators and athletic departments will likely have some of their top players back on the court and more money will be made.” Slough wanted that statement to be clear of no disrespect to the colleges themselves, but wanted to reflect on the honest nature of the NCAA and their sports. Men’s basketball makes up to 34 percent of all athletic profit at Division 1 institutions nationwide.

From scholarship terms, budgets, travel costs, scheduling, and any other logistics that go into making sure a college athletic season runs as smooth as possible, it would be a nightmare to give seniors their year of eligibility back. The NCAA has allowed spring sport athletes to gain their extra year of eligibility back, winter sport athletes feel as though they were cut short in the midst of this entire pandemic. Mark Terrell, two sport athlete at Stevenson University, a Division 3 school in Maryland said he thinks that he should be given his right to compete for a national championship.

“I just find it kind of screwed up. I think we should be given the opportunity to compete for a championship, which is something we worked all year long on.” Terrell thinks that the NCAA should have a period in which teams will be allowed to practice, and only postseason qualified teams would finish out the NCAA postseason tournament. “It’s the fair thing to do. Give us the opportunity to live out our dream. Especially the seniors,” said Terrell. A basketball and baseball athlete, Terrell will not be coming back to school in the fall to live out his last year of baseball eligibility.

Mark Terrell, Image via Stevenson University

As many student athletes are appalled by the NCAA’s decision to cancel the rest of the season for winter sports, some are agreeing with the decision to call it quits on the 2020 season. A student athlete that plays women’s basketball for a Division 1 program was asked not to be identified, but cared to give her opinions on the decision to cancel college sports for the rest of the 2020 semester.

“I think it was the safe thing to do. While I would’ve liked to finish out the dream of competing in the postseason, I think that it was the right decision to make everyone stay at home so that the risk of the virus is minimal.” The women’s basketball player believes that she is in the minority in this sentiment, but wanted to speak out to share her thoughts. All sports at all NCAA levels have been cancelled until further notice since March, and fall sports are re-evaluating the decision to start back up in the near future.

Info graphic of Division 1 athletic programs

Many schools such as Harvard University have already announced that they will not be hosting in-person classes in the fall semester, as all classes will be online. The Ivy league, the conference in which Harvard competes in has expressed their desire to move all fall sports to the spring semester in order to limit the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The NCAA allows Division 1 men’s basketball programs 13 scholarships for just a 15-20 man active roster. All other sports with 30- to 40-plus athletes are only given 11.7 scholarships per team. If these senior winter athletes were given the opportunity to come back to the court for whole extra year, the scholarships would simply be taken away or not given to many athletes who thought that they would have them.

It would just simply not make any sense to give out an extra year of eligibility to seniors just because they were not able to compete in the postseason. The sentiment and lack of joy for the seniors who had their season cut short is certainly there, but the logistical measures surely aren’t. If it were as simple as just telling student athletes to go out there and play, it would be much different. Would the return for winter sport athletes such as men’s and women’s basketball even be worth it for their future? The answer is quite simply “no.”

From freshman to transfers coming in throughout each recruiting class, next season is always a mystery. Will the lineup be the same? Will the player’s performance level be the same? In some cases, will the coach of the team be the same?

There are so many unanswered questions for the winter sport athletes that simply do not make sense for their extra year of eligibility. There will always be the chance that a senior could even have the opportunity to go pro or come back to college. In this situation, especially with the uncertainty of college sports today, it would be hard to turn down financial gain to come back to school, something many schools are doing online anyway.

The overarching idea of granting seniors, and all around winter sport athletes at the NCAA level
and extra year of eligibility when the postseason tournaments were cancelled just simply don’t make
any since. Fair? That’s a different question. Absolutely, the seniors last basketball game shouldn’t have
been a guess. The student athletes should one hundred percent be allowed to earn that extra
postseason opportunity, especially when some were national championship contenders. However, the
logistical standpoint, and the student athlete’s best interest just isn’t the logistical thing to do during this
unprecedented pandemic.

About Jordan Moore 4 Articles
Grad Student at Emerson College | Contact: | Social: @ijordanmoore