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NCAA votes to grant all spring student-athletes an extra year of eligibility

Winter student-athletes were left in the cold

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COLLEGE SOFTBALL: MAY 06 Grand Canyon at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NCAA Division I council voted Monday to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring student-athletes whose 2020 seasons were cut short by the coronavirus crisis.

Winter student-athletes, including basketball players, were not included in this decision as “all or much of their regular seasons were completed,” per the NCAA’s statement.

The NCAA also announced that financial aid rules have been amended so that schools can offer spring student-athletes the same amount of aid (or less) as they did in the 2019-20 academic year without worrying about scholarship limits.

Still, not every senior will be welcomed back.

A USA Today study showed it could cost Power Five public universities anywhere from $500,000 to $900,000 to give seniors an extra year—the price of tuition, equipment, housing, travel, food, etc.

Therefore it is easy to imagine a scenario in which a senior, especially one who is deemed non-essential to a team’s success, is asked to not return (or take significantly less aid) so that the program can welcome an incoming freshman without putting itself in a financial bind.

For that reason, and because roster sizes will on average be larger, you can expect Monday’s vote to lead to a surge in transfers.

“We can work through the challenges—it’s the right thing to do,” Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke tweeted anyway.

Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea, whose team will be greatly affected by Monday’s vote, was in favor of granting all student-athletes an extra year as well.

“Eligibility relief was meant for all classes!” he tweeted.

Arizona softball’s top-ranked 2020 recruiting class consists of eight signees, a large group on the account that the program expected to graduate six seniors.

But all six seniors are star players, making for an interesting financial situation if they all return and all eight freshmen join the program as planned.

That said, some seniors are not in a prime spot to continue their athletic careers, having already accepted a job or enrollment in graduate school at a different institution. This applies to Arizona third baseman Malia Martinez and pitcher Alyssa Denham, though both could still try to delay their next moves so they can use their extra year of eligibility.

As far as Arizona baseball goes, Monday’s vote could mean the return of two of UA’s top relief pitchers in Vince Vanelle and Preston Price, both seniors.

Arizona’s best players are underclassmen, and they too are more likely to return for another season now that the 2020 MLB Draft will be abbreviated from 40 rounds to 10, or maybe even five.