The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday reportedly decided to allow all 2020 fall sports athletes to retain a year of eligibility for the 2020-21 athletic season.
As reported by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, the decision — which is still subject to approval by the NCAA Board of Governors, as early as Friday — would let any fall sport athlete compete in any number of games and still retain their eligibility amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sports affected by the NCAA’s decision include field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and, most notably, football.
The impending decision could have several ramifications for both current and future college football players, including in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West, conferences that intend to play spring football in lieu of a fall season.
The biggest question, assuming team scholarship limits will not be increased beyond the 85-player limit, will be roster management. If a graduating senior or redshirted player opts to return for one more season, coaches and athletic directors may be forced to deal with over-full rosters and potentially upended athletic budgets.
One Pac-12 coach, speaking with CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd on Tuesday, said teams would need more scholarships in order to make the NCAA’s potential plan work.
“You’ve got to expand rosters,” he said. “Gotta have more.”
Another potential issue, assuming the NCAA council’s decision isn’t formally adopted, is early enrollees — particularly in conferences opting for spring football seasons. Those players could conceivably play two seasons in one calendar year, having burned two years of eligibility before the 2022 season.
“This isn’t a normal year,” West Virginia athletic director and NCAA council member Shane Lyons told CBS Sports on Tuesday. “If we’re really serving the student-athletes, why not just give this year of eligibility? The downside is people are going to say you’re going to have an issue at the back end with a (roster) bottleneck. That always works itself out.
“Coaches are going to want, want, want,” Lyons said. “We’re going to have to adjust. We’re not going to use COVID as an excuse for everything. Some can argue right now that 85 is too many.”