Jamaican high school athletes, with the potential to be offered scholarships to American universities and colleges, could be breathing a collective sigh of relief after what appears to be a compromise between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and their over 1,260 institutions over the number of scholarships that will be allowed for next year.
There were concerns earlier after the NCAA announced that seniors (fourth year) who were denied their final season of eligibility when the spring semester was cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID19 would be allowed to return for an additional season.
It is understood, however, that the schools would be allowed their regular number of recruits to start school in August, while still keeping their seniors, several college coaches have told the Jamaica Observer.
Commonwealth Games 200m champion Omar Brown, who is the sprints and hurdles coach at the University of William and Mary in Virginia, said this week that “the abrupt ending of the 2020 track and field spring season due to COVID-19 has definitely impacted student-athletes, especially the seniors and incoming freshmen”.
The NCAA, therefore, has made adjustments by providing seniors with an extra season of competition.
“Additionally, the NCAA allows universities to carry additional scholarships for incoming recruits and the senior student-athletes who decided to return for an extra season… scholarships availability will be based on universities’ resources,” Brown said.
Also affected was the outdoors track and field season, but with the schools being left to fund the scholarships, there were doubts whether the institutions would be allowed to exceed the numbers of student-athletes by keeping the seniors, which one college coach shared he would now be referring to as “super seniors”.
Track and field makes up the largest portion of Jamaican high school students who are offered scholarships to American institutions each year and a number have either signed National Letter on Intent (NLI) forms or are still weighing their options.
However, not every school or conference will be able to extend the offer and at least one major conference, the Ivy League has taken a decision not to extend the offer to their seniors.
“After a number of discussions surrounding the current circumstances, the Ivy League, has decided the league’s existing eligibility policies will remain in place, including its long-standing practice that athletic opportunities are for undergraduates,” the league said in a statement.”
Some schools, particularly smaller ones with less money to spend, might not be in a position to make the offer either, but in one case, the football coach at the University of Wyoming, Craig Bohl, has offered to cover the entire cost of seniors who would be affected at his school.
Tuesday’s Powell Tribune reported Bohl and his wife Leia are making a $100,000 gift to the University of Wyoming Athletics Department to fund the scholarship costs of spring sport senior student-athletes who have indicated their desire to return for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year.
“The estimated costs of those scholarships will be $70,000. The remainder of the Bohls’ $100,000 gift will go toward supporting the UW Athletics Training Table and other student-athlete nutritional needs,” the article said.
Zach Glavash, assistant sprints, hurdles and relays coach at Texas Tech, told the Jamaica Observer that “the school will only cover the cost of the seniors”.
“Super seniors, as I will call them, will be exempt from counting against the teams scholarship limits. For example, men have 12.6 scholarships and women we have 18. The Super Seniors will not be counted in those numbers. So if we have five Super Senior women coming back, we can actually have 23 athletes on scholarship, but the Super Seniors will not count, so we are still at 18 scholarships,” said Glavash.
— Paul Reid
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