Due to the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA spring athletic season, the Division III Administrative Committee will allow spring athletes another season of eligibility. This gives Bowdoin athletes the option to either stay on campus for another year or enroll at another Division III school after graduation in order to make use of that extra season of eligibility.
“While these measures won’t cover all circumstances, they were taken with the best interest of student-athletes in mind,” said Tori Murden McClure, president of Spalding University and chair of the NCAA Division III Administrative Committee, in a press conference announcing the eligibility extensions. “During these extraordinarily difficult times, conferences and institutions should not focus on the application of NCAA legislation, but rather the health and well-being of student-athletes.”
Officially, the eligibility extension is structured so that the cancelled spring season does not count towards student-athletes’ existing eligibility restrictions, even if their team had already started or elected to continue with their schedule. A press release published by the NCAA on March 18 outlined the new eligibility guidelines.
“In Division III, student-athletes have 10 semesters or 15 quarters to get in four seasons of participation. With this move by the committee, the 2020 spring semester will not count toward their 10 semesters or four seasons,” reads the release.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the situation, Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan said it was hard to make any general statements on how many Bowdoin athletes would take advantage of this change.
“We don’t we don’t have a history of utilizing additional years of eligibility on campus,” said Ryan in a phone interview with the Orient. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some students who were interested in pursuing the opportunity. But really, it’s such an individual decision.”
Ryan stressed that for Bowdoin student-athletes, the choice to use the extra season of eligibility would involve a range of factors beyond sports. Academics, extracurriculars and other considerations would factor in to each student’s decision-making process.
“It’s a really a personal decision for each student-athlete in terms of their own individual academic experience, as well as their athletic experience. So it would be something that each athlete would want to talk through, certainly with those people that advise them as well as [with] the dean’s office and their coach,” said Ryan.
The only thing that comes close to a precedent for this situation is the current process for applying for a medical hardship waiver. If a student-athlete is injured and misses an entire season, they are sometimes eligible to stay for another season after their senior year.
“We look at [medical hardship] situations on a case-by-case basis,” said Ryan. “I would envision that we would do the same thing here, where we would want to sit down and have a conversation with the students to talk about their interest in participating in the [additional] year and how that may impact their academic experience on campus.”
The NCAA approved a similar set of measures for Division I, but is allowing Division I schools to decide whether to allow their student-athletes to stay for an extra year on an individual basis. This is largely because powerhouse schools that spend millions of dollars on athletic scholarships might not be willing or able to bear the financial burden of extending all of those scholarships for another year. However, this factor will not likely be relevant for Bowdoin, given both the lack of athletic scholarships and the limited likelihood that many students making use of this opportunity.
“Where a financial hardship would apply is if we had a significantly large group of students who were interested in pursuing the opportunity,” said Ryan. “But just given the history of participation in [additional] seasons in the past at Bowdoin, I’m not anticipating that that would be the case.”