College athletes who opt out of playing during the 2020-21 school year likely won’t be at risk of losing a season of eligibility.
The NCAA’s Division I Council officially recommended that the Division I Board of Governors implement a rule that would allow players to keep their full remaining eligibility if they decide not to play because of coronavirus concerns.
A player has the ability to make a decision midseason about the dangers of the coronavirus as well. The council is recommending that a player can retain his or her eligibility if they play in half or fewer of a season’s games before opting out.
The Council recommended the board provide fall sport student-athletes who compete and then opt out of future participation or have a season cut short due to COVID-19: (1) an extension of their five-year period of eligibility; and (2) an additional season of competition if they participate in 50% or less of the maximum number of competitions allowed in each sport by Division I rules.
Members will further discuss additional Board of Governors requirements, including a prohibition on canceling, reducing or not renewing athletics aid for student-athletes who opt out of participation due to COVID-19 and required medical coverage for COVID-19 if a student contracts the virus through sports participation. Members also will discuss financial aid limits for fall sports. Although that topic was not part of the board’s mandate, some Council members think providing schools some flexibility in this area is important.
While the recommendations aren’t official just yet, they are likely to become official rulings next week at the Division I board meeting. There were no details provided on the financial aid limits that could be discussed.
The recommendations come a day after the Big Ten and the Pac-12 said they wouldn’t have fall sports at all in 2020. Both leagues have said they’re exploring playing football in the spring of 2021.
Legislation surrounding Supreme Court ruling
Justice Elena Kagan denied the NCAA’s request for a stay of injunction in a case surrounding athlete benefits on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that limits on what players can get from their schools for playing sports was an unreasonable restraint. Wilken’s ruling didn’t open the door for schools to pay players a salary, but rather allow them to create financial incentives for graduation and provide athletes with more school-related supplies.
The limit on academic incentive payments mirrors the limit allowed by the injunction, which did not set a specific dollar figure. The injunction permits these benefits but does not require schools to offer them. The injunction also allows a conference to set its own limit if it chooses to do so.
The injunction is now in effect and applies to basketball and football players. The NCAA said it will appeal the ruling immediately to the entire Supreme Court and had enacted emergency legislation in response.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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