“Every athletic director in the country is for the benefit of our student-athletes, I understand the decision and we are working through how to make the best decisions with each sports program of how we implement that. But I think in general it was a positive vote.” – ECU AD Jon Gilbert
Since the NCAA spring sports seasons were shut down on March 12, East Carolina University AD Jon Gilbert, has waited to see what the NCAA would do next. On Monday afternoon, the NCAA’s Division I Council officially voted to grant that extra year of eligibility.
The Council also will allow schools to self-apply a one-year extension of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes, effectively extending each student’s five-year “clock” by a year. This decision was especially important for student-athletes who had reached the end of their five-year clock in 2020 and saw their seasons end abruptly. Monday’s vote wasn’t necessarily a surprise but the logistics will have to be worked out.
“We are estimating our additional costs somewhere in the $350k range,” Gilbert told CollegeAD. “I’ve had several conference calls with coaches and compliance staff administrators to one, reiterate what legislation had been passed and to let them ask questions about what the specifics are. The message from me was, we don’t have an athletic department reserve and while we are for the student-athlete experience, we do understand this legislation comes with a cost. As I had the discussion with our coaches, the decision rests with coaches and their student-athletes as it relates to what the scholarship amount is coming back.”
Division I Council Members also adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility who decide to stay. Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.
“The fund is part of something each institution gets as part of the NCAA distribution. Obviously, with not playing the tournament, those numbers will be down, but we all will be receiving student-athlete opportunity fund money. Most of the time those funds are used for a variety of reasons, like a student-athlete in need, so I think there is potential to use a fraction of that as it relates to some scholarship costs, but I do not anticipate that being able to fund the entire scholarship number.”
Gilbert explains there will still be a burden for student-athletes and their families’ to carry. He tells CollegeAD that will impact who returns for another year.
“I think we have to be mindful of two situations. Number one is the majority of our spring sports, with the exception of women’s tennis, they are all equivalency sports, the student-athletes are paying, in large part, to come to school at East Carolina. If they are on a 30% scholarship that means the family is responsible for 70%. So, I asked the spring sport administrators to have the decision with their seniors about where they see this senior contributing to the team and get the feedback from the senior on whether they want to return or not.”
So, where the money will come from? Gilbert says incoming freshmen will not be impacted, but the money does have to come from somewhere.
“There are resource schools who can take it out of the reserve and pay for it and move on. Other schools are going to have to look at where can they get additional funding to cover this scholarship cost because it is a real number. It’s not a paper transfer from athletics to the institution, we are sending real money to the university to make sure our student-athletes can attend class.”
As for where the additional funding will come from, for ECU, and AD Jon Gilbert, “everything is on the table.”
“The differential between in-state and out of state scholarships, travel costs, game schedules, not filling open positions; I’ve asked our staff to look at every possible way we can be more efficient doing what we’re doing to increase revenue and cover the costs.”