The NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors approved a blanket waiver Friday that will grant athletes in fall sports an additional year of eligibility and an additional year to complete it, regardless of whether they play in the fall or the spring or not at all.
The Board of Directors’ waiver approval impacts athletes at four schools with Division I athletic programs in Western New York: the University at Buffalo, Niagara University, Canisius College and St. Bonaventure University. All four schools had fall sports postponed or canceled by their respective conferences.
UB is a member of the Mid-American Conference, which plans to field its fall sports competition to the spring. Niagara and Canisius are in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which said last month it will decide at a later date if fall sports competition will be feasible in the spring. St. Bonaventure is in the Atlantic 10 Conference, which said last month that it intends to field fall sports in the 2021 spring semester.
“We want to provide opportunities for student-athletes whenever possible,” acting board chair Denise Trauth, president of Texas State, said in a statement released Friday by the NCAA. “We understand it will be complicated and different, and we’re not certain how it will look. But we believe it’s important to try to give students that championship experience.”
The NCAA Board of Directors enacted a similar waiver in March for spring athletes, whose season and championships were canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Board of Directors also four adopted recommendations that protect athletes:
• Schools are prohibited from canceling or reducing athletic scholarships if a college athlete in any sport opts not to participate due to Covid-19.
• Athletes who do not enroll full time during the 2020 fall term have flexibility in the progress-toward-degree requirements that must be met for eligibility in future terms.
• The financial aid of fall sport senior athletes who take advantage of the additional year of eligibility and extended clock will not count against team limits in 2021-22.
• Schools are prohibited from requiring athletes to waive legal rights regarding Covid-19 as a condition of athletics participation.
The Division I Council also approved a recommendation by the Division I Board of Directors to move all the division’s fall championships to the spring. NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Aug. 13 that the Division I fall sports championships have been canceled because of the lack of schools participating in fall sports this year.
The Board of Directors determined Division I will work toward hosting scaled-back fall championships in the spring. Board members cautioned that fall championships should be played in the spring only if they can be conducted safely and in accordance with federal, state and local health guidelines.