BY MAKENNA ALLEN
Ever since NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors announced the cancellation of all remaining winter and spring championships, student-athletes, coaches and Fort Hays State University fans have been buzzing with questions.
One of the most prominent of these issues is the confusion surrounding eligibility for seniors completing their final season of a winter or spring sport.
In a teleconference March 18, the NCAA discussed clarification regarding the extension of eligibility waivers. Nevertheless, there is still uncertainty surrounding the application of the extension as individual universities decide how to apply the rules to unique circumstances.
Dixie Balman, assistant athletic director of compliance and senior woman administrator at FHSU, provided baseline information from the NCAA on the ever-changing situation. According to Balman, the school is still in the process of working with the NCAA’s guidance to sort through the logistics of the decision.
When it comes to what FHSU does know now, Balman confirmed there will be two waivers that might be applied. The first of these waivers pertains to athletes looking to retain their season.
“Baseball, softball, tennis, men’s and women’s golf athletes who competed this year will get their season back,” Balman said. “Men’s and women’s outdoor track had not yet competed. So they did not use a season and therefore will retain theirs.”
The second waiver Balman detailed involves athletes who have used all semesters of eligibility. Under this waiver, student-athletes in their ninth and 10th semesters during Spring 2020 will gain two extra semesters of eligibility. These semesters can be used only during the 2020-21 season.
These waivers apply only to athletes competing in spring sports. According to Balman, the NCAA has not yet provided any legislation as relief for athletes participating in winter sports.
With the qualifications in place for student-athletes, FHSU Athletics can begin to turn its attention to the future issue of scholarship opportunities for students utilizing their additional semesters of eligibility. Balman suggests this issue is ongoing and will be better determined after coaches communicate which athletes will be returning to play in remaining seasons.
“We are currently working with coaches as they have discussions with their athletes regarding returning to play. Once we have a better understanding on the number of returning athletes, we will look at our options and resources that will be available,” Balman said. “There are many unknown variables at this point. This will affect institutions for several years, not only in the initial year due to recruits that have already signed for 2020-21.”
The school’s decision to award scholarships may prove impactful in the choices of senior athletes when it comes to deciding whether or not to utilize their extra seasons of eligibility. For FHSU distance track and field athletes Reed Rome and Kaleb Crum, the end of the 2020 season is the time to move forward in life.
According to Crum, the additional time spent in school would not be worth the additional cost.
“I’m done with school and it would be too expensive to stay back an extra year just to run,” Crum said.
As student-athletes struggle with these decisions, Balman ultimately hopes to provide individuals with comfort in knowing coaches and staff will be available to help with the transition to online learning. They will also be available for “meeting” with student-athletes via phone calls, Zoom, email and other virtual platforms in order to ensure all pre-enrollment and eligibility questions are resolved.
Student-athletes and fans can also visit the NCAA website at the link provided to view a complete list of eligibility conditions as well as to receive continual updates regarding such decisions.