The National Collegiate Athletic Association has offered an additional semester of eligibility for spring student-athletes whose seasons were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, for senior student-athletes with postgraduation plans, playing another season is not part of the plan.
“A lot of us have already made decisions about what we’re doing for the next chapter. I plan on enlisting in the Navy,” senior women’s water polo player Victoria Rose Meek said.
The Regals water polo team was ranked number one by the end of their season, and was looking to compete in the first NCAA DIII Women’s Water Polo Championship, after making it to the NCAA tournament last year, which included all divisions of the NCAA.
Meek described the conclusion of the season as “disappointing and disheartening.”
“We put in so much work this preseason and over the past four years,” Meek said. “We get no senior experience, no senior day, or our first year of nationals. It’s such a shame, we’re very upset.”
When the NCAA announced that all sporting events including games, tournaments, meets and practices would be canceled, ending some winter sports championships and the remainder of spring sports’ seasons unexpectedly, many seniors experienced an abrupt end to their collegiate athletic career.
The NCAA’s offer of an additional semester of eligibility, however, strives to make another season of play flexible and available to all athletes.
“The Division III measures approved to include an additional semester and season of eligibility for all student-athletes participating in spring sports, the removal of a minimum threshold of sponsored spring sports, and the flexibility for schools to assist students with travel, lodging and meals as a result of campus displacement,” Rachel Stern said, in an article from the NCAA.
Senior Chloe Barnes on the women’s golf team said that losing out on playing in some of their biggest tournaments is a sacrifice worth making. She added, “COVID-19 is an issue greater than just ourselves.”
The women’s golf team had a successful season, finishing as No. 25 in the nation, also setting four program records over the course of the season.
All spring season student athletes at Cal Lutheran will have the opportunity to use their remaining year of eligibility as a student-athlete.
“Luckily, I was already planning on staying for another semester, so I will be able to use my extra year of eligibility,” Barnes said. “I am very fortunate to have that, but not everyone has that same opportunity.”
Although senior spring athletes have the option to fulfill another season with their eligibility, some seniors will opt not to take the eligibility.
Unlike other NCAA divisions, Division III athletes do not receive athletic scholarships, and with graduation just a few months away, the idea of returning for play is complex.
“There’s always a possibility I could return, but for now, I’m not planning on going to grad school at Cal Lu,” Meek said. “I do love the sport, but my body is a bit worn down as well. The timing is just not there anymore.”
For NCAA Division III athletes, students are allowed four years of eligibility. Unlike Division I or Division II institutions, there is no specified time period in which the years of eligibility can be used. Therefore, athletes may use their extra year of eligibility due to the cancelation of the 2020 spring season in any future time frame.
The additional year of eligibility is not just applicable to seniors, but all grades of spring athletes whose seasons were cut short due to COVID-19.