Some college football athletic departments aren’t giving the chance South Carolina is promising its 2020 spring sports seniors.
Wisconsin has already said it won’t pursue waivers to give athletes an extra year after the NCAA allowed it following the coronavirus shutdown. Iowa’s athletic director told ESPN his school is working through the decision, and the financial strain on smaller schools could be considerable.
The Gamecocks and Ray Tanner said they’d bring everyone back who wanted to return, and hammered that point home in a letter Saturday morning.
“We are extremely excited to be offering the opportunity, allowed by the NCAA, for any spring student-athlete who had their final year of eligibility cut short to return to campus for another year of eligibility,” Tanner wrote. “The financial challenge of funding scholarships for this additional year is sizable and thus, not mandatory. However, our student-athletes are of great character and they perform in the classroom and in competition. There is no doubt that this is the right thing to do.”
Overall, there are 45 student-athletes affected. Schools across the country are feeling the squeeze because the cancellation of the NCAA tournament and spring sports championships will eat into their NCAA money distributions in a big way. Tanner has been steadfast in his belief all spring seniors should get a chance to return.
Ohio State’s AD told ESPN he expects half of the school’s 70 spring seniors back.
Tanner said the goal right now is to stay in the black for this fiscal year while planning for football season, which has been the subject of much speculation. On a radio show appearance, Tanner said every senior returning would cost the school just over $1 million, but not everyone is expected back.
“Not all of them will come back because some will graduate,” Tanner said in a radio interview earlier this week. “Some will move on. Some will get a chance professionally. I’ve talked to a couple of students that are going to grad school at other places. So that number won’t be that high.
“But still, the opportunity is there for those young men and young women to have a senior season.”
There are also questions of balancing a larger-than-usual freshman class in baseball, as an abbreviated MLB draft will likely send more players on the route.
For the moment, there’s no clear sense of when things might get back to normal, although students will not return to campus until August. Football coach Will Muschamp mentioned the need for eight weeks of conditioning and camp before games, and in recent weeks Tanner floated the idea of athletes perhaps returning to campus before August, assuming it can be done safely.
Tanner capped his letter with a hopeful note, as uncertainty stretches out before him, his department and everyone else.
“The efforts made by those within our campus community to act swiftly and prioritize safety in the face of uncertain times has left us well positioned to deal with the challenges of this virus. While none of us know what the future holds, we remain enthusiastic about the first chance to get out our rally towels and enjoy ‘Sandstorm’ as we gather once again ‘under a Carolina sky…under the palmettos, beneath the crescent moon’ as a Gamecock community and as a family. “