CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It is an unprecedented decision made by the NCAA, but these are unprecedented times in which everyone is living. The NCAA has officially allowed players who were graduating this spring, to play another year. This ruling is only for spring sport athletes however. This is because all spring sports were canceled in the wake of the Coronavirus.
We spoke with both Jon Palumbo, the Athletic Director for Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and Steve Roach, the Athletic Director for Texas A&M Kingsville, on what the extra year of eligibility means for the teams, budgets and scholarship allotment.
Both of these athletic directors know these players on a personal level, and were happy to see them get a second chance.
"I'm happy for them," Palumbo said. "To have their seasons taken away from them was heartbreaking."
Sports teams have a certain number of scholarships they are allowed to hand out and other sports have limited scholarship budget. The NCAA will be expanding both for spring sports next season to help programs who will be returning a handful of seniors.
"The way the NCAA ruled this out for the spring sports is any athletes that would have exhausted eligibility this spring will be exempt from the normal scholarship limit next year," Palumbo said.
2020 seniors will be able to play in 2021 and it will not affect incoming freshman who have already signed with their schools.
"We will honor all of those commitments," Palumbo said.
Some schools have enough funding to have many full ride scholarships, Texas A&M Kingsville doesn't not have that luxury.
"Not all of our students are on full ride," Roach said. "It is more an allotment here and there."
Now something that is important to remember: scholarships mean money. When an athlete gets a full ride scholarship, their tuition is being paid for by the university. If it is a half scholarship, then half of the tuition is being paid for by the university.
Now that seniors have the option to return to school, universities will be spending more money on scholarships than ever before, and that will force the department to look over their budgets.
"We have to try and go out and either find within the budget or raise some money," Palumbo said. "What are some of those tough decisions that we are going to have to make?"
There are some athletes that may need to have a portion of their scholarship reduced or even asked to become a walk-on.
The seniors that are graduating in the spring and are eligible to play that extra year will have to take some sort of classes next year to be eligibile to play. They have to be a student athlete.
Now, just because the option to return free of charge is on the table, does not mean the players will return. Some might call it a career and head on to the next part of their lives.
"Some of our student athletes have job offers pending," Roach said. "It is really tough to turn down a professional job offer."
There is still a lot to figure out for athletic departments across the country right now. It is an uncertain future and unprecedented, but the two major univerisities in the Coastal Bend believe they are ready to navigate the storm.