Will Eligibility Relief Impact Athletic Scholarships?



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

How will this change college coaches’ recruiting needs for spring sports?

Now that spring sport athletes have officially been granted eligibility relief and the opportunity to compete for a fifth year, recruiting needs for the 2021 class may change from program to program. Recruits who are committed to or speaking with a program right now should be communicating with the coaching staff regularly.

What does this mean for athletic scholarships?

With individual schools in control over the decision to offer an additional year of eligibility, college coaches are faced with two major questions. How many current roster holders will take advantage of this opportunity and who’s going to pay for it?

This week, Legendary UCLA softball coach Sue Enquist joined NCSA’s Director of Softball Jaimie Duffek to address the steps college coaches are working with student-athletes and their athletic department to get answers.

  • Connect with the athletic department: Coaches will first need to know whether their school plans to offer eligibility relief. If yes, they’ll need to work with the athletic department to determine their budget. Based on the determined budget, college coaches will have a better idea of how their recruiting efforts will be impacted.
  • Connect with 2020 college seniors: While some seniors have already made their decision whether to return or not for a fifth year, many are still weighing their options. Coaches won’t have a full picture of what their 2020-21 roster will look like until all senior student-athletes make their decision.
  • Calculating cost: Once coaches know their budget and how many 2020 seniors intend to return for an additional year, they will have a better understanding of roster and scholarship availability for recruits.

The Domino Effect

While senior student-athletes must decide quickly whether they will return for a fifth year, this new rule creates a domino effect. All current spring sport athlete, from freshman to seniors, will be given the same opportunity to compete for a fifth year, if their school elects to grant eligibility relief. Juniors and underclassman still have time to decide whether they will return for a fifth year, so we will continue to see the impact of eligibility relief for the next four years.

While this situation may be frustrating, Sue encourages recruits to be remain optimistic and understand that, while you may not have control over eligibility relief and scholarship budgets, you do have control over yourself and how you manage your recruiting process.

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