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JSU's Case, McGinnis laud NCAA Division I Council decision as fair

JSU baseball

The Jacksonville State baseball team goes through practice before being interrupted with news that the Ohio Valley Conference has suspended games and practices indefinitely. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)

Jacksonville State spring-sports athletes will receive an extra year of eligibility.

The NCAA Division I Council voted today to allow schools to give athletes an additional season in which to play their sport. Cancellations because of the COVID-19 cost college spring-sports athletes across the country most, if not all, of their seasons.

"I'm really glad to see it, and it's very fair," said Jim Case, who has been JSU's head baseball coach since 2002. "By giving back a year to everyone, it's good for the student-athlete. If it's a mistake, we're making a mistake for the student-athlete, and if you do it like that, you can't go wrong."

JSU's baseball team had played only 15 games when play was suspended March 12. The JSU softball team had played only 21, and all were non-conference contests.

"I think it's fair," said JSU softball coach Jana McGinnis, who has been at the school since 1994. "It's the right thing to do, especially considering most teams hadn't even started conference play yet.

"I knew it would be a tough decision, and I'm happy it was made."

Jacksonville State listed 31 seniors on its spring-sports rosters for this season. The Gamecocks' baseball roster listed seven seniors this past season, while the softball team had two. In golf, the men had two seniors and the women had five. Tennis had four, including two men and two women. Women's track and field had six, beach volleyball three and rifle two.

The Council includes one representative from each of the 32 Division I conferences and two student-athletes. On Sunday night, the Student Athlete Advisory Council published a statement imploring the NCAA Division I Council to award spring-sport athletes an additional year of eligibility.

McGinnis said that she figures the SAAC statement likely helped get the proposal passed.

"At least now, the senior has a choice. It's their choice to be made," McGinnis said. "If they feel like there's a void, then they can come back and play one more season."

The Council voted not to award an additional year to winter sports athletes, even though the NCAA men's and women's basketball championships were not played.

The NCAA Council adjusted rules to allow teams to exceed scholarship limits to account for incoming recruits and seniors who want to stay. Money in the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund can be used to pay for scholarships for 2019-20 seniors who choose to return for 2020-2021.

The Council also ruled that Division I baseball teams will be able to exceed their roster limit. Normal rules limit Division I baseball rosters to 35 players.

The Council's vote also provided flexibility in regards to financial aid for athletes who would've been seniors this spring. Schools are not required to award the same financial aid to these seniors for 2020-21 as they did in 2019-20.

In addition, the Council voted to allow schools to extend the eligibility clock for athletes who were fifth-year seniors this spring. Those athletes can return to play next season, even though their five-year eligibility clock already had expired. Typically, athletes have five years to complete four years of competition.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn, was quoted as saying in a news release. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.