Athletic Recruiting Coronavirus / COVID-19 NCAA

NCAA Gives Extra Year of Eligibility to Spring Sport Athletes

extra year for spring sports

On April 15, 2021, the NCAA Division 1 Council announced that all in-person recruiting for D1 sports will resume starting June 1, 2021. That means coaches will be able to return to their normal recruiting calendars and activities.

The NCAA’s decision to cancel all 2020 Winter and Spring Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has a silver lining for student-athletes missing out on the 2020 spring sports season. In statements released by the NCAA Division 1Division 2 and Division 3 Committees on March 13, 2020, eligibility relief will be granted to student-athletes who compete in spring sports.

On March 30, 2020, the NCAA Division 1 Council officially voted to grant spring sport athletes an additional year of eligibility. Some important things to note:

  • The decision to offer an additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools
  • Seniors who return will not count towards the team’s scholarship limit
  • Roster limit is increased for baseball (The only spring sport with roster limits)
  • Winter sports will not receive eligibility relief

We will continue to provide updates as the NCAA committees continue to address eligibility relief, as well as issues with the NCAA recruiting rules and calendar.

The first example of this is NCAA’s new recruiting rules for all D1 programs that prohibits coaches from meeting face-to-face with a recruit off campus or doing any in-person scouting through May 31, 2021. They have also encouraged all colleges to stop all official and unofficial visits

The Division 2 Administrative Committee extended a quiet period (originally from June 1-July 31) to August 31st, allowing in-person recruiting with prospective student-athletes on D2 college campuses. In-person, off-campus recruiting is still prohibited. All regular recruiting calendars and in-person recruiting activity have resumed for D2 sports. 

As the college sports community waits for the NCAA to share more details, here’s a look at what eligibility relief means for 2020 seniors and 2021 recruits.

How will this change college coaches’ recruiting needs?

Each of the sports seasons presents their own unique challenges:

  • Fall Sports – Because the fall season was not impacted by coronavirus, the only change to recruiting will be the shift to no in-person recruiting through May 31, 2021. Coaches are still available on the phone, email, text and social media. Expect the same recruiting activity, just without the face to face contact.  
  • Winter Sports – The NCAA Division 1 Council has declined to extend eligibility for winter sport athletes. This means recruiting for these sports will continue as expected, just without the face to face communication.
  • Spring Sports – Now that the NCAA D1 has officially granted eligibility relief, coaches’ recruiting needs for the 2021 class may change, as there is now an opportunity for senior athletes to compete for an additional year. If you have a program you have committed to or speaking with, make sure you are communicating with the coach regularly.   

What does this mean for 2020 recruits?

What does this mean for unrecruited 2020 student-athletes still trying to earn a roster spot? While most D1 and D2 college coaches have finalized their roster for the 2020-21 season, the NCAA’s eligibility relief plan may limit unsigned seniors recruiting opportunities if coaches decide to hold roster spots for current athletes who plan to return for a fifth year. 

To increase their opportunities, 2020 seniors should remain open-minded about different division levels and step up their recruiting efforts online. Learn more about how NCSA can help unsigned seniors here

For 2020 seniors already committed, eligibility relief may significantly impact their rookie year. Athletes committed to programs with several seniors could be facing a very different roster, if their school decides to honor an extension of eligibility. Fortunately, the NCAA D1 Council announced that seniors who return will not count towards the team’s scholarship limit.

As more information becomes available, NCSA will continue to break down the impacts for all recruits. 

What does this mean for 2021 recruits?

While it’s still unclear to what extend the NCAA eligibility relief for current 2020 college seniors will impact 2021 recruits, we do know that roster spot availability and scholarship opportunities will not be affected for D1 programs. The recruiting dead period now running through May 31, 2021 will change the recruiting process, even if just briefly. How can 2021 recruits stay on top of their recruiting during this unforeseen NCAA dead period?

  • Pick up the phone: While in-person recruiting is restricted, the recruiting conversation can continue over the phone. Create a plan and prepare questions before picking up the phone to ensure the conversation is productive for both parties. Here are some tips on calling college coaches.
  • Reach out via email: Email is a great way to start the recruiting conversation and continue a dialogue between coaches and recruits. Start with an introductory email and then check your email regularly to avoid missing a coach’s reply.
  • Create a highlight video: College coaches are unable to recruit in person, which means they’re unable to evaluate athletes at athletic events. Their next best option to evaluate talent is by watching highlight video on a student-athlete’s recruiting profile. Follow these guidelines to create a strong highlight video.

What about winter sport college athletes’ eligibility?

On March 30, 2020, the NCAA Division I Council Committee announced that winter sport athletes will not receive eligibility relief, as these programs were able to complete all or much of regular season competition.

What about Ivy League athletes?

In an effort to prevent student-athletes from intentionally delaying graduation for athletics, the Ivy League eligibility policies do not allow for a fifth year of eligibility. For a student-athlete to gain an additional year of eligibility, they must leave school for a term.

Now, after canceling all 2020 spring athletics practice and competition, the Ivy League stated that they are “working with our schools to identify and consider various issues, including those related to the ongoing eligibility of senior spring student-athletes.”

About the author
Natalie Smith