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NCAA grants spring athletes extra year of eligibility

By Paul Cifonelli – Sports Editor

When the NCAA cancelled all championships through the remainder of the winter and spring seasons due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was just a matter of time before all the seasons were stopped. The cancellation of the spring season came right at the beginning of the schedule, when many teams were preparing to get into the meat of its non conference schedules. That left the athletes without a season or clarity on what the future holds.

On March 13, Division III spring athletes were given eligibility relief for the 2020 season.

“[The Division III Administrative Committee] approved a blanket waiver for all student-athletes participating in spring sports as follows: (a) Waive the use of a season of participation for all student-athletes in spring sports. If an institution continues or re-starts its season, this relief would still exist; and (b) Waive the use of the spring semester toward their limit of 10 semesters/15 quarters, regardless of whether they used a season,” Vice President for NCAA Division III Dan Dutcher stated.

This ruling allows athletes in their senior campaign a chance to come back to school and play a fifth season. Also, athletes who were seen by the NCAA as freshmen, sophomores and juniors will keep their respective classifications for the 2021 season.

Senior Tom Walsh, a member of The College at Brockport men’s lacrosse team, does not plan to return to Brockport and play next season but wants to keep his options open.

Senior Tom Walsh (above) looks to get by a defender from SUNY Delhi. Walsh was given the opportunity to play a fifth season on Friday, March 13, by the Division III Administrative Committee. (Photo credit: Mathieu Starke)

“It was definitely nice to know [about the extra year of eligibility], but with my situation I’m not going to come back to Brockport next year,” Walsh said. “When I was thinking about it, I was looking into it for my master’s or graduate school. If I do go on to get my master’s, which I’ll probably do in a couple years, then it will be nice to have the year of eligibility.”

Walsh believes the athletes at Brockport who have to make this decision will make it based on whether it would make sense in their academic schedule.

“I think with people who are coming back, who have that fifth year at Brockport, for example I think with physical education teaching, they have to stay for five years for student teaching, so that’s definitely good for them,” Walsh said.

On the other hand, junior Julia Palopoli, a member of the softball team, is unsure of whether she will use the extra year but is looking at her options as she prepares to graduate after her senior year in 2021.

“I haven’t really thought about if I will take the fifth year or not since I’m going to be graduating on time,” Palopoli said. “I’d have to look into graduate school or maybe picking up another minor, so I’m not 100% sure yet.”

Even though she isn’t sure of her plans for the future, Palopoli will still encourage all seven of the seniors from this year’s team to find a way to come back and play softball at Brockport in 2021.

Junior Julia Palopoli (above) throws a pitch last season against SUNY Potsdam. After a ruling by the Division III Administrative Committee on Friday, March 13, Palopoli still has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining. (Photo credit: Alex Henderson/ Brockport Athletics)

“I would love to have them back,” Palopoli said. “I try my best to get them to come back but in the end it’s their decision and if they’re graduating on time and they don’t need graduate school or Brockport doesn’t offer what they need for next year then it’s hard for them to come back. But I would love for all seven seniors to come back.”

Both the men’s lacrosse team and softball team were off to hot starts in 2020. The men’s lacrosse team started 2—1, while the softball team went 8—2 on its season-opening trip to Florida.

With the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports seasons initially providing a lot of what-if’s and questions for seniors who thought their college careers were gone before they could play out their season, the decision to give them an extra year of eligibility should erase most of those questions.

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