After a major shutdown of all spring sport events and a cancellation of the duration of the season, the NCAA Division I Council announced it would allow schools to provide student-athletes an additional season of eligibility for competition. This applies to all spring student-athletes who have had their season cut short, including those who are graduating in May.
For Cassie Campos, a student-athlete who will graduate in May from Westminster College, the decision on whether to continue her education in order to get an extra season to play is something she’s still considering.
“I’m still confused on what I’m going to do,” said Campos, who competes on the women’s golf team. “I don’t know what it would be like if I didn’t come back.”
NCAA rules limit student-athletes to only four years of competition in a five-year period. For Division II schools, which Westminster falls under, the extended eligibility will allow seniors to “redshirt” their season — meaning they can withdraw from competition for a year to return the next season.
“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn, in a statement. “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.”
Student-athletes are eligible to use this extended season if they were eligible for competition during the 2019-20 school year and the season was ultimately canceled for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Shay Wyatt, director of athletics at Westminster. This includes athletes for outdoor track and field, men’s and women’s golf, and lacrosse.
However, for graduating seniors to come back for a final season they would need to be enrolled as a full-time student in either a “second undergraduate degree program or […] a graduate degree,” Wyatt said in an email.
For students like Cassie Campos, that means she’d need to enroll for a full semester in the fall to compete in her last season.
“I’m considering coming back for a master’s degree to play golf,” Campos said. “I would want to play, but grad programs cost more money at Westminster and I don’t know which program I would do.”
Campos said she plans to compete professionally in golf after college, eventually working with the PGA management program. However, another year of competition as a student would provide advantages for her.
As a student, Campos said she has access to training resources and equipment for free that she would need to pay for outside of college. It would also provide another year of “good preparation” before competing professionally.
However, she said she’s still unsure because of the uncertainty surrounding the sports world caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“What if events in the fall are cancelled and I come back and still can’t play?” Campos said.
Despite the opportunity to come back for another year, Campos said many of her peers will pass on the extension — noting it isn’t worth it to pay more tuition. That means many of those who are graduating in May will say goodbye to their sports forever.
That decision, she said, is heartbreaking.
“You train your whole life and prepare for a season that just gets cancelled,” Campos said. “You give it your all your senior year, and I don’t know how much more I have to give.”