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Baseball America College Podcast: Discussing NCAA's Eligibility Decision

On this episode of the Baseball America College Podcast, Teddy Cahill and Joe Healy discuss the NCAA Division I Council's decision to grant an extra year of eligibility to all spring sports athletes.

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In short, that means that every college baseball player will get the year back they lost when the 2020 season was cut short by the novel coronavirus pandemic. With fears that the council might decide to forego eligibility relief altogether or push the decision to the summer, this announcement was a welcome sight for players and coaches across the country, given that all players will have the option to return and coaching staffs now have clarity on what they are going to be facing.

Additionally, information emerged about the details surrounding the decision. Players who had eligibility remaining after 2020 will remain at the same aid level. Seniors who will now be back will have their aid level determined by their respective coaching staffs. They can receive any amount between nothing and the amount they received in 2020, but their aid cannot exceed what they were already receiving.

Junior college transfers who left school as sophomores and will arrive on Division I campuses this fall will be considered juniors, but a waiver process through the NJCAA could get them that year back. Graduate transfers, notably, can have their aid percentage increased at their new school.

Still, questions and decisions remain. Even with the legislative piece taken care of, an inevitable roster crunch will ensue. With some subset of seniors returning for another year, to be joined by the expected returners and a full recruiting class, coaches will have decisions to make about how to make the pieces fit. Making it more difficult is the recent MLB announcement that the draft will be shortened, which could push more 2020 high school graduates to college campuses rather than minor league baseball.

This group of seniors will also have an important decision to make. Many of them may have had internships, job offers or graduate school plans already in hand. Will they push those to the side in order to play another season of baseball?

College baseball now has firm answers on what to expect on eligibility, but that's only the first piece. Now, it will have to deal with an offseason full of uncertainty and player movement. Rosters are going to be fluid as players figure out what is best for them, and coaches will have to figure out how the puzzle pieces fit together.

But for now, the NCAA made the best decision in a situation without a perfect solution.

Gage Workman Billmitchell

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