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NCAA gives blanket waiver to athletes, including football players, whether or not they play in 2020

The Division I Board of Directors gives out a “golden ticket” to any football player that participates this fall, meaning it won’t affect any future eligibility.

Clemson University football players Trevor Lawrence, Darien Rencher, Cornell Powell, and Mike Jones Jr., pray following the “March for Change” protest at Bowman Field on June 13, 2020 in Clemson, South Carolina. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In a stunner, the NCAA has done the correct and logical thing for student-athletes affected by Covid-19.

Today the NCAA Division I Board of Directors has approved blanket eligibility for football players that participate this fall, as well as for those that choose to sit out any portion or all of the 2020 season.

This is completely logical and makes sense. The standard rule for student-athletes is “five-to-play-four” where you have five academic years to compete in four different seasons. In football most athletes sit out their first season of competition to acclimate to campus life and the bigger, faster game in a process called redshirting. A new rule in 2018 allowed redshirting football players to play in up to four games but not be counted as having used a season of competition.

To penalize students that would be victims of when their clock expired was helpful to no one. This also means any additional players covered by this waiver on a roster in 2021 will not be counted towards sport scholarship limits, such as the rule no school may issue more than 85 scholarships in FBS football.

Also the NCAA fall sports in Division I (FCS football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, field hockey) that move championships to the spring will be allowed to modify tournament fields.

Score one for reason and empathy here, as Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi described this as a “golden ticket” for football players. Though the scholarship extensions from schools might be a budget item they weren’t expecting, they also aren’t required to extend them to all players. This seems the most logical choice for both sides, as long as the student-athletes that aren’t renewed can continue their careers at another institution without penalty if they choose. And since most will be seniors that have graduated, that shouldn’t be an issue.

This is normally a “drag the NCAA at all times” space, but not today. Good on Indianapolis for doing the right thing here.