The NCAA Division 1 Council voted this week to ratify multiple measures pertaining to the winter sports calendar, most notably being that each student-athlete within the winter sports will receive a free year of eligibility.
Winter sports were the lone student-athlete term that did not have the waiver granted to them as both fall and spring athletes were granted such a waiver early on in the process.
The NCAA voted previously to all spring and fall sports athletes to maintain their year of eligibility no matter which or how much or what portions of their seasons were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Spring athletes had their entire seasons canceled while fall sports athletes had the option to opt-out of their seasons as opposed to play through a pandemic.
The winter athletes now have that same option granted by proxy through this ruling and as such, will also give them freedom of mind for these issues that may arise ahead of this 2020-21 winter season.
“We felt it was important to make this decision now so student-athletes had the peace of mind to go into this season and compete,” NCAA Division I Council Chair Grace Calhoun told ESPN on Wednesday. “They know they can regain that eligibility and have their clock automatically extended, so they’re not taking that chance on the front end if they choose to compete.”
There is also pushing forward from the Division I Council this week, looking forward to coming to rulings on the Name, Image, Likeness ahead of 2021 as well as a new one-time transfer rule that would allow student-athletes to transfer schools without having to sit out a season.
On the name, image and likeness (NIL) front, council members debated a proposal from the working group that has been assigned to come up with new rules as they continue to sort through some of the details of how college athletes will be able to make money in the future. A little more than a year ago, the NCAA’s board of governors told each division of the association to revise its rules restricting athletes from making money by selling the rights to their NIL. Under pressure from state and federal lawmakers, the association is expected to vote on changes that would go into effect no later than next fall.
Federal and state lawmakers might also have a say in how much the NCAA is allowed to restrict the future earning power of college athletes. After college sports leaders asked for their help, several members of Congress introduced pieces of legislation that address the changing landscape of college sports. State laws that have already passed could go into effect as soon as next summer if they are not preempted by federal legislation. NCAA leaders are hoping their proposed changes will work in concert with what Congress decides to pass to create a uniform set of rules that apply across the nation. Some members of Congress have expressed concern that the NCAA is unwilling to go far enough in expanding the rights and benefits of college athletes.
Calhoun said the group was trying to be “as permissive as possible while making sure there was fairness and integrity in the process.” College leaders have said they are concerned that an unrestricted market for college athlete endorsements would be used as a thinly veiled recruiting tool, rather than matching the true market value of an endorsement. Calhoun said she hopes that transparency and flexibility will help them manage some of the still unresolved issues in balancing those two objectives.
A lot to read through as opposed to the NLI ruling as well as other rulings coming to head.
The most important feature, now however, is that winter athletes are free to play or not play without fear of losing a year of eligibility through this pandemic.
And that just feels right.