As they did for spring athletes, the NCAA approved a blanket waiver for fall athletes to gain an extra year of eligibility.
The move is a little different from the one made in the spring. All spring sports were canceled so many athletes played only a portion of the season, if any at all. But fall athletes, regardless of whether they play this fall or not, will receive an extra year of eligibility.
For example, some conferences like the Big Ten have canceled their fall football season. But the ACC, Pitt’s home, is still moving forward with playing games. So the Panthers’ players, even if they play a full season, will still be allowed to return.
Something like that is kind of nice for a team like Pitt that was anticipated to have a good season. But they’ve already lost defensive Jaylen Twyman, who said he’s moving on. And would really expect to keep a potentially high NFL Draft pick like Paris Ford on board for another season? What about Damar Hamlin? Maybe a guy like quarterback Kenny Pickett stays on for another year. There are others. At least, though, the option is now there for guys that want to return for another season.
That could have all sorts of ramifications beyond even the stacked rosters for many teams that will be bringing in standout freshmen. Two immediately stand out to me. Financially, some schools may struggle with providing additional scholarships as the number of scholarships available is expected to rise for next year with athletes gaining the extra year of eligibility. Keep in mind that it’s not just the football players here. You’re talking about all of the other fall sports where athletes can receive scholarships or partial scholarships.
Pat Narduzzi spoke in his press conference on Friday, though, and essentially said that shouldn’t be a concern. His point was that, financially, the kids need to be taken care of, and it’s hard to argue against that. But while a larger school from a power conference like Pitt should be able to handle that cost, smaller schools outside of the P5 may have a more difficult problem in doing that.
Second, as CBS notes at the end of this article, the rule could sort of throw career statistical records out of balance with athletes playing five, or even five-plus seasons worth of games. That’s not just NCAA statistical records, those are conference records and individual school records, too. And more to the point, the extra year that the more experienced players will have is going to be stats heavy. Frankly, I don’t know how you fix that one unless you just declare that any additional statistics accrued in the extra year of eligibility don’t count. Good luck with that.
Those are the FBS football impacts but what this does for other fall sport athletes seems murkier. You may have missed it, but the championships for all other fall sports (i.e. FCS football, volleyball, soccer, cross country, and field hockey — FBS football and its postseason bowl games is not technically under the oversight of the NCAA, so that is exempt from the decision) have been postponed with the hope of playing them in the spring.
ACC volleyball, for example, is a sport that is moving forward with a season (for now) this fall. So, seemingly, Pitt’s volleyball team could play this fall but not play in the postseason until the spring. Whether or not the ACC will move its season to the spring now is unclear — with this decision, that would seem likelier? Maybe?
In other words, we’ve got one heck of a mess right now.