Students have to come back for eligibility

Nik Cunningham, Sports Editor

The NCAA announced that spring athletes are able to get their eligibility for the next year back next year, if the athletes decide they want to.

“Right now, we’re just trying to make sure we get clarification on all the ins and outs of the NCAA stuff and in just gauging the interest of some of those seniors and whether they want to come back,” Jon Mark Hall, director of athletics, said. “Would we be able to bring them back as far as scholarships, financial aid? We are wading through that process right now.”

However, this only applies to spring sports. Winter sports don’t get that eligibility even though they didn’t complete their season.

The only way for Spring athletes to get their eligibility back is to stay and play their sport. This means seniors would have to put off their plans for another year, by either picking up another major, going to graduate school at USI or re-enrolling.

“There definitely will be some I think we’ll have some baseball student athletes and some golf student athletes and track student athletes that don’t want to come back and compete that last year of eligibility,” Hall said.

Students who haven’t graduated yet, can get that year back easily, but seniors have to make a choice for whether or not they really want and/or need that last year. 

Some seniors already have plans of getting a job or going to graduate school in their chosen field, but the NCAA is giving them an ultimatum.

“Difficult are the ones that may finish in the spring, summer, in the fall, if they want to stick around in the following spring and go to graduate school or pick up another major minor they can,” Hall siad. “Are they ready to move on to the next phase of their lives? So that’s kind of just an exploratory phase right now.”

Hall said by the end of the month, the athletics department will know more about how athletes are responding to this and how many will take advantage of this offer.

Jennifer Leonhardt, a biology major and pitcher on the softball team, said with the season now being cancelled, she is upset that this is how her last senior year will end.

“It came out of nowhere for all spring sport athletes,” Leonhardt said. “We understand why it happened because we’re in a time where health is the number one concern, but obviously, it’s very upsetting to know that, in my case, I worked my entire life to get to my final senior year and there’s going to be no closure there.”

Leonhardt already had plans and now that she can’t finish her season, she is thinking about talking to her coach to see if she can get that year back without destroying her plans.

“I know my friends, we’ve been talking about their jobs being lined up,” Leonhadrdt said. “It just becomes a tough situation and it makes you wonder what we miss but at the same time, you have to do what’s best for yourself. I, personally, haven’t had that conversation with my coach yet. But of course, it’s on my mind and it’s been on everybody’s mind the past few weeks.”

If Leonhardt decides to play for another year and still go to graduate school, that option is still there, however, she would still have to be a USI student. The eligibility is not transferable.

“When the NCAA granted this waiver to give athletes the extra year of eligibility that was to come back to the school you were participating at,” Hall said. “So basically, with this waiver, it would allow people to come back to the school that they’re at, or the one they just finished at, and be able to still participate.”