The NCAA decided to award all spring athletes an extra year of eligibility due to coronavirus. The biggest issue that will arise from this is the NCAA leaving it up to the schools if the players who would have been off scholarship after this year are rewarded any aid. It has been left up the schools to decide what to do in this situation.
I would think a lot of schools will do the right thing and grant scholarship aid to the returning seniors, but some may not be able to from a financial standpoint after the lost revenue due to the pandemic. The sports that are considered spring sports are baseball, softball, beach volleyball, golf, lacrosse, rowing, tennis, track and field, men’s volleyball and women’s volleyball.
Most schools do not compete in every spring sport, but the financial fallout could range from just under $1 million for the Power 5 schools to $350,000 to $400,000 for the smaller conference. This isn’t a small drop in the bucket, especially considering the NCAA will be sending out a much smaller revenue check this year due to the lost NCAA Tournament revenue.
Baseball Sees Biggest Impact
NCAA baseball will have a much different look than in years past. MLB has decided to shorten the draft, thus leaving a lot more talent in NCAA baseball. The draft will shrink from 40 to 10 or five rounds. That leaves a lot of players who are juniors who would have left for the pros coming back for another year of baseball. Add that to the seniors who may return, and you have a log jam.
For one year, spring sports will not have to worry about the scholarship limit because of the seniors coming back. Baseball at the NCAA level will feature a lot of players who would be playing pro baseball back on college campuses. While there will be negatives to COVID-19, next year’s spring baseball season should be the best we have seen in a long time.
Now add all the high school seniors who would have probably forgone college and went straight to the pros, and now you have an even greater number of talented players going to college than ever before. We are talking 900 or so draft-eligible players who will now not be drafted.
With all these numbers added together plus the seniors who decide to return, and you are looking about four or five players returning to the average team. When you consider the powerhouse teams who have a greater number of guys who would be drafted, you could be talking about seven or eight additional players that coaches weren’t counting on.
The competition for starting position players and the depth in pitching at schools like Miami, LSU, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Texas, etc. will be a joy to watch. A guy who would have been your number 2 next year may fall back to a bullpen role in a weekend series. Creative coaches will be able to utilize the talent and keep everyone happy. I’m looking forward to Omaha even more than usual in 2021.
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