Two weeks after promising eligibility relief for the season lost to COVID-19 closures, the NCAA Division I Council voted on Monday to, “allow schools to provide spring-sport student-athletes an additional season of competition.”
Rules and regulation concerning scholarship size and five-year periods of competition are all being adjusted to accommodate spring teams carrying five classes of student-athletes. That includes exempting student-athletes who would have exhausted eligibility in 2019-20 from roster limits.
“Well, my heart feels good and I’m happy for the student-athletes, but the athletic director and finance guy inside of me is a little nervous and wondering how we’re going to do this,” Long Beach State athletics director Andy Fee said. “It does present some some budget challenges for us. I don’t think we have all of the answers yet, but I think from a basic standpoint of supporting student-athletes’ opportunity to compete, you know, I do think there’s positives here.”
JJ, Mike and Andy talk about how yesterday’s eligibility relief announcement will affect LBSU Athletics, and talk about a number of other related topics regarding the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. #GoBeach *There are audio issues in this episode, but the content is still vital.*
Schools must pay for the scholarship additions, but have the option of giving student-athletes returning a different amount of financial aid than the level provided for 2019-20.
“If all of our seniors came back next year, it’s probably around $300,000 that we would need,” Fee said of the scholarship costs. “And I’ll be honest, we don’t have $300,000 just sitting off to the side here waiting to be used.”
Fee said there isn’t much the department can do with the current budget restrictions.
“We have to cut somewhere if revenues aren’t increased,” Fee said. “We’re not cutting fat. So when we cut we’re cutting into muscle, and we’re just trying to figure out which muscle is less important than the others, I guess.”
The NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund will also help pay for scholarships for student-athletes who come back for another year, but Fee said that will only make a dent for LBSU.
“I will give credit to the NCAA that they certainly are being flexible and at a time where there’s so many unknowns,” Fee said. “In some ways it’s frustrating because it all comes down to us as an institution.”
Fee virtually met with all of his spring coaches on Wednesday, and said there would be some harsh conversations about how much an extra class of student-athletes will cost.
“I don’t think every single senior is going to come back,” Fee said. “But I think at any major university you might have to sit down with a student-athlete and say ‘We’d love to have you back, but we just can’t afford it’.”
Those financial limitations will create more separation between mid-major schools like LBSU, and larger institutions like UCLA or private schools like USC.
“A lot of those power conferences, their conference offices do have substantial reserves based around their multimedia rights TV rights,” Fee said. “I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, but it does create a greater divide.”
All of the NCAA non-senior spring participants will also get the extra year of eligibility, and that will eventually make the Class Of 2024 the largest in NCAA history with the returning freshman and first-year players joining classes.
“These are trying times and I think this has also been a great learning experience for our student-athletes,” Fee said. “You find out what is critical in your life and what’s really important… We’ll find a way.”