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Spring athletes on hiatus likely to receive extra year of eligibility from NCAA

Fallout continues from coronavirus scare

Colorado head coach Ann Elliott and ...
Colorado head coach Ann Elliott-Whidden and her team posted a 3-2 record, before the spring cancellations were announced.

The latest NCAA fallout from the coronavirus pandemic likely will be hollow solace for a Colorado men’s basketball team dealing with the disappointment of not being able to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Same for a CU women’s basketball team that was eyeing a chance to extend its season in the WNIT. Yet for all of the Buffaloes’ spring athletes whose seasons were wiped off the docket, it appears relief is on the way.

On Friday, the NCAA announced it will offer eligibility relief for student-athletes who participate in spring sports, all of whom had their seasons canceled on Thursday as fears regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to grip the nation.

For CU, that would include athletes in women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s golf, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field. At other regional schools, additional prominent programs set to be included in the eligibility relief would be the baseball programs at Air Force and Northern Colorado, the softball program at Colorado State, and the men’s lacrosse program at the University of Denver, among others.

In a span of 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday, the Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament in Las Vegas went from banning fans for the scheduled quarterfinals on Thursday, to canceling the tournament altogether Thursday morning. Hours later, the NCAA opted to scrap all winter and spring championships, including the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments set to begin next week.

Details regarding the spring sport eligibility relief have yet to be finalized, such as whether this will affect only 2019-20 seniors or all athletes across the board. The NCAA also will have to adopt temporary adjustments to its scholarship allotments for the various sports, as allowing 2019-20 seniors to return for another year will force programs to exceed the usual scholarship totals when the 2020-21 freshmen also are added to the mix.

Coach Ann Elliott-Whidden’s CU lacrosse program has reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons and was expected to compete for a fourth consecutive bid this spring. The club had already played five games, posting a 3-2 record, before the spring cancellations were announced. CU already had scuttled this week’s trip to the Bay Area to play Cal in Stanford prior to the announcement.

The full statement released Friday by the NCAA regarding spring sport eligibility relief:

“Council leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports. Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time. Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and weeks.”