The Division I Council has made a decision to extend eligibility for student-athletes competing in winter sports, as recently announced by the NCAA website. The Council has been considering this option in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted fall sports seasons and is now disrupting winter ones, including swimming and diving.
The Council has decided to grant student-athletes competing in winter sports the same flexibility that it granted spring and fall student-athletes by offering winter student-athletes an extra season of eligibility and an extra year to exhaust this final season of eligibility. Like fall sports, it does not matter if winter athletes had a season or not. Athletes in all winter sports will be offered another season of eligibility.
Under normal circumstances, Division I student-athletes have a 5-year window during which they can use up their four seasons of eligibility. However, given the current situation with COVID-19, student-athletes of all class years have been offered an additional season of eligibility, regardless of where they are in their 5-year window.
This decision comes after the NCAA decided not to extend winter athletes’ eligibility, including swimmers and divers, who had their NCAA championships cancelled due to the pandemic.
The Council has also decided that due to the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 is posing, Division I schools will not be required to sponsor the required minimum number of sports needed for membership purposes, so long as the schools indicate on Sports and Demographics Survey forms that the only reason they were unable to sponsor the requisite number of sports was due to the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Additionally, schools will not be required to sponsor a sport for each season, and multi-sport conferences will no longer be a requirement to meet minimum sport sponsorship requirements.
Finally, the Council also decided to amend the process by which teams qualify for championships, granting a blanket waiver for 2020-21. The Council has agreed on the following points, which are consistent with what was granted to fall sports teams:
- Winter sports can participate in as few as 50% of the required minimum contests/dates of competition and still be considered for championships selection. This applies to all sports except for men’s and women’s basketball, which have already set their minimum contest number at 13.
- A win-loss record of .500 or better is normally required for teams to be eligible to participate in at-large championships selections, but teams will not be required to meet this standard this winter season.
To read the full report provided by the NCAA, go to this link.