Georgia plans to honor its commitment to allow as many of its spring sports seniors to return on scholarship next year as desire.
UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity was asked for clarification on that issue after Wisconsin announced Wednesday that it would not be seeking waivers for its seniors who had their final seasons cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
“No, we welcome any seniors to return if they desire,” McGarity said in an email. He followed up with a phone call.
“We’ve already told our seniors they can come back if they want,” he said, with a hint of incredulity in his voice. “That hasn’t changed.”
Last month, the NCAA Division I Council approved a proposal to extend eligibility for athletes in spring sports who would have exhausted their eligibility in 2020. To do so, scholarship limits for the 2020-21 academic year would have to be relaxed. The NCAA left it up to individual institutions to decide whether to grant less or equal financial aid compared to what they received this year.
Not taking advantage of that exemption apparently is becoming a thing in the Big Ten and other places. ESPN reported that Iowa is among other schools also considering the move.
But Georgia hasn’t batted an eyelid on allowing its seniors another year of eligibility.
“Student-athletes are the top of the food chain for us,” McGarity said. “That’s just our philosophy. They get taken care of first.”
Most UGA seniors are taking advantage of the waiver, but maybe not as many as you might think.
McGarity said Georgia had a total of 37 spring sports seniors. Of those, 19 have indicated they plan to return next year. The other 18 have informed UGA either they are not coming back or are not likely to return.
If they do return, their scholarships will be renewed for another full academic year at the same amount or percentage as they currently exist. McGarity says the scholarships will cost about $150,000 for UGA Athletics. That doesn’t factor in other expenses, such as lodging, training table and other related perks. McGarity estimated the costs at maybe $250,000 total.
The Big Ten and some other conferences field more sports than Georgia and the rest of the SEC, including lacrosse, rowing, men’s volleyball, beach volleyball and men’s and women’s water polo.
For Georgia, the NCAA’s waiver applies to eight sports: men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, women’s softball and baseball.
Only women’s tennis (eight scholarships), women’s golf (six) and softball (12) are considered “head-count sports” in which full scholarships are awarded one per person. The others are categorized as “equivalency sports” in which percentages of scholarships are distributed among a number of student-athletes. That’s 4.5 for men’s golf and tennis, 12.6 for men’s and women’s track and field and 11.7 for baseball.
Baseball is by far the most difficult to figure out because juniors are eligible for the major-league draft. That’s further complicated because the draft has been reduced to five rounds this year rather than 40. Those juniors and seniors who aren’t selected will be unable to sign for more than $20,000, which might make a return for another year of school more enticing.
With only seniors exempted from the 2021 scholarship count, that creates quite a headache for head coaches making aid promises to juniors and incoming freshmen too.
“Nothing is certain yet,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “The draft is still in the mix for all of them. It’s just too early to know what’s going to happen.”
Georgia has at least two juniors who are considered early-round selections in pitchers Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox. Star shortstop Cam Shepherd, a senior, might have a tough choice to make.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.