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NCAA extends eligibility for spring sports, does nothing for winter sports like basketball

The NCAA, in a very NCAA fashion, took half-measures and didn’t do enough in the interests of athletes.

President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Mark Emmert speaks to the media ahead of the Men’s Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 04, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

The NCAA Division I Council today agreed to grant an extra year of eligibility to all spring sport athletes, and also allowed schools to keep those student-athletes on scholarship without counting against sport totals.

The Division I Council on Monday voted to allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility.

Members also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility who decide to stay. In a nod to the financial uncertainty faced by higher education, the Council vote also provided schools with the flexibility to give students the opportunity to return for 2020-21 without requiring that athletics aid be provided at the same level awarded for 2019-20. This flexibility applies only to student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20.

Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.

This is good news for spring sports athletes in sports such as baseball, softball, golf, tennis, men’s volleyball, lacrosse and more. But it provides zero relief to winter sports athletes such as basketball, hockey, and others that have been denied the opportunity to compete for championships.

Winter sports were not included in the decision. Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed.

So to all the men’s and women’s basketball players that didn’t get a chance to play for conference or national championships, Mark Emmert and the NCAA telling you to to go home or get a job instead of getting a chance to compete for the title with your team you’ve dreamed about since you were a child.

The men’s NCAA basketball tournament averages averages $771 million a year in revenue alone, a number which rises to $1.1 billion a year for 67 games over three weeks in 2025. But apparently there’s just not enough money to do the right thing for all athletes, especially the ones upon which all that revenue is generated.