After the NCAA canceled remaining athletic championships and several conferences suspended athletic activity through the remainder of the 2019-20 season, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee has agreed that spring athletes deserve an additional year of eligibility to make up for their lost season. The full Division I council will meet on March 30 to vote on eligibility relief along with other issues, according to a Friday press release.
The NCAA announced on March 12 that it would be ceasing all winter and spring tournaments due to the coronavirus outbreak. That same day, the ACC released a statement indicating that all athletic events—including games, recruitment, and practices—would come to an indefinite halt. The ACC later announced that the suspension would last through the remainder of the academic year.
The issue of eligibility, especially among senior student athletes, has been a hot topic of conversation online. Allison Wahrman, an Iowa senior and member of the track and field team, began a petition on Change.org urging the NCAA to let its athletes have a year of eligibility back.
Wahrman’s petition collected 100,000 signatures within 20 hours of being uploaded, according to Sports Illustrated. As of Monday, over 301,000 people have signed.
As for those participating in winter sports—who played the entirety or majority of their regular seasons but were unable to compete for conference and national titles—the NCAA has not yet committed to a decision.
“[The NCAA] will work in a timely manner to make informed decisions,” the NCAA said in a letter to member institutions, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports. “The committee will review and discuss the additional issues in a timely manner and decisions will be communicated to the membership as they are made.”
The Friday press release also did not address the issue of roster availability between those who would have been in their last season of eligibility and incoming freshmen that have already been recruited.
Neither the Division I Committee nor the Division II and Division III committees have made definitive statements about whether or not winter athletes will receive eligibility relief, and it is unclear at this time if they will be granted another year.
For Boston College women’s basketball head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee and her team, the shortened season does not take away their achievements, according to a recent interview with The Heights. Bernabei-McNamee recently received the honor of ACC Coach of the Year after leading her team to an astounding 20-12 regular season record before making an incredible run through the ACC Tournament.
Bernabei-McNamee’s squad had three seniors, each fighting to make the NCAA tournament for a final hurrah after executing a dramatic turnaround in their four years. And even though that possibility won’t come to fruition this season, Bernabei-McNamee said she believed the team’s character had carried them to a fulfilling season.
“Of the 350 Division I women’s basketball teams, if they had a scale of who had the best character, we would probably be number one,” Bernabei-McNamee said in the interview. “We would be winning the national championship on the character front. … And at the end of the day, the character is what matters most.”
But this isn’t to say that the absence of a tournament didn’t greatly affect winter athletes. Seniors that were preparing for postseason play had their final seasons ended much sooner than anticipated.
Unlike women’s basketball, BC men’s hockey had no conference tournament. When news broke of the tournament cancellations, Jerry York’s 27-player lineup—which featured 11 seniors—was just days away from opening its Hockey East Tournament appearance against Providence.
“The residue effect of the whole thing is still in my mind,” York said in a recent interview with The Heights. “There’s no real closure. There was no banquet at the end of the season. There was no, you know, ‘win a championship, lose a championship.’ There were none of those feelings. It was almost surreal. And it’s still hard for me to swallow.”