Division I Council to vote Monday on baseball eligibility plan

NCAA Council Vote on Mondau
The NCAA Division I Council will vote Monday on whether to allow baseball players an extra year of eligibility to compensate for the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other collegiate governing bodies, including Division II and Division III, have already ruled in favor of eligibility relief.

The Division I Coordination Council released a statement earlier this month voicing support for eligibility relief, however also acknowledging any decision isn't without significant consequences.

“In principle, the coordination committee agrees relief should be extended to spring sport student-athletes and supports providing schools with a framework in which they would have the autonomy to make their own decisions in the best interest of their campus, conference and, student-athletes," the statement said.

There are three potential outcomes of Monday's vote: grant all spring athletes an entire extra year of eligibility, grant only seniors an extra year of eligibility, or forgo granting eligibility relief altogether.

Multiple coaches and officials in the Philadelphia region believe the Council will move forward with the first option and grant athletes another year to play.

"It's simply the right decision to do it that way," one Atlantic-10 official said. "It will create some headaches, sure, but I don't see how you have your seniors end their careers on a note like this."

The biggest impact, assuming the Council votes to grant all athletes an extra year of eligibility, pertains to roster construction in 2021. Division I regulations limit rosters to a maximum of 35 players and a maximum of 11.7 scholarships. Both figures will likely need an increase to allow programs to potentially roster athletes from five different graduating classes.

"They could potentially look at the senior class and simply not count their scholarships against the program totals," suggested one area assistant coach. "They could also just raise the cap altogether."

Compounding matters is a recent deal signed by Major League Baseball and the MLBPA where the two parties agreed to significantly cut the number of rounds in the MLB draft to as low as five. This means players that would have likely been drafted will presumably play another season and bottleneck the system.

It's also important to note that the roster ramifications from the Council vote will be felt beyond the 2021 season.

"You'll be looking at rosters next year for some programs with potentially 15 or 20 freshmen," said one Division I coach with ties to the Philly area. "It'll change how we recruit, at least in the short-term, because we simply won't have the roster space to accommodate everybody. I'm also not sure where the money will come from for the additional unexpected scholarships."

It's a complicated situation with multiple moving parts, but at the very least, the Council will provide programs with an answer on Monday. From there, programs and conferences will discuss plans on how to move forward.

"Crazy to think two months ago that we would be in this position," said one local official. "Yet, here we are."
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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