U. of Wisconsin Denies Spring Sports Seniors '21 Return

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Citing “a time of unprecedented uncertainty in college athletics,” as well as NCAA overreaction, the University of Wisconsin athletic department will not allow seniors in spring sports to exercise an extra year of eligibility after the coronavirus pandemic suspended their 2020 seasons.

As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, the UW has “made the decision to not pursue waivers that would extend the eligibility of our senior student-athletes,” according to a statement from the athletic department. “Student-athletes in their fourth year of eligibility have concluded their careers with us.”

The NCAA Division I Council on March 30 approved an extension of eligibility for athletes in spring sports whose 2020 season ended because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Financial aid rules were relaxed as part of the decision, and schools were allowed to tap into an NCAA fund to help pay for increased scholarships for returning seniors. According to some schools, fully funding every senior's return could cost around a half-million dollars, with the University of South Carolina estimating this week potential expense of more than $1 million. But the NCAA's decision also allowed schools to decide not to grant financial aid at the same level as previously provided to those who choose to return.

Related: Schools Approach Funding Extra Eligibility Differently

A “substantial percentage” of the 35 Wisconsin seniors — representing 10 spring sports — who were eligible to return under the NCAA’s waiver are scheduled to graduate before next spring. The athletic department said it would “do everything possible to support our student-athletes as they work toward those degrees.”

“What we tried to do was encourage our seniors to go ahead and, if you’re going to graduate, graduate and move on with your life,” Alvarez said Wednesday on his monthly radio show, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal“We appreciate everything that you’ve done. But move forward. The future is in question, and we can’t promise you anything.”

One of the arguments against having senior athletes return for another season, Alvarez said, was other students won’t get a chance to finish a semester of studying abroad or be able to take part in a final musical performance that was canceled. “Anybody that went through that, it just ended,” he said. “And so, I think our faculty reps thought that it shouldn’t be one group be cherry-picked to get credit and be able to come back to pick up that year of eligibility.”

Alvarez also addressed financial issues related to the coronavirus. He said the athletic department is modeling three budgets for next season: one with competition returning in full; one with no fall sports, including football; and one with no fall or winter sports.

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