Extra Eligibility Could Be Costly for NCAA Programs | Athletic Business

Extra Eligibility Could Be Costly for NCAA Programs

With spring sports canceled due to the coronavirus, the NCAA is considering providing an additional year of eligibility to athletes whose seasons were cut short or lost entirely.

But that won’t come without a cost. A USA Today report suggested that Power Five programs could need to spend between $500,000 and $900,000 each in order to provide an additional year of eligibility only to senior student-athletes participating in spring sports. 

A number of variables would apply to an individual program’s bottom line impact. Such things as whether rates for student-athletes are charged as in-state or out-of-state, or the number of spring sports a particular school sponsors could move a program’s outlay significantly. 

While FCS programs would likely need to scrounge together less cash, depending on the size of their spring sports rosters, they could need to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars just the same. 

USA Today’s analysis examined scholarship costs for NCAA-sanctioned spring sports at 20 different institutions during the last fiscal year. 

The situation presents a challenge for cash-strapped athletic departments, stuck between trying to do what’s right for student-athletes and coming up with additional money amid declining revenues from canceled sports. 

“I do believe it’s the right thing to talk about it and see what the possibilities are,” Eastern Michigan athletic director Lynn Hickey told USA Today. “In our situation, how do we come up with the funds for the extra scholarships that we weren’t counting on? Quite honestly, I don’t know how we would pay for it. I’m being very honest and transparent. I don’t know.”

The NCAA’s Division I Council will reportedly vote on March 30 on the issue of what it called “eligibility relief for student-athletes whose seasons were impacted by COVID-19 and other related issues.” 

The Council’s leadership group said on March 13 that such relief would be appropriate for all student-athletes who participated in spring sports — an important distinction, as the more classes granted eligibility (beyond exclusively granting relief to seniors), only increases the funds needed to cover those scholarships.

Apart from missing out on revenues from the NCAA tournament, schools are also likely to take a hit on the ticket sales, sponsorship and donation fronts. 

“It may be the right thing to do,” Hickey said of granting eligibility relief, “but realistically, I don’t know how we would pull it off without help.”

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