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Ken’s Column: NCAA does the right thing

Well, the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) did what I though they would do and should do. The organization’s Division 1 Council announced on Monday, March 30, that it would grant an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes at NCAA Division 1 colleges and universities that participate in intercollegiate spring sports such as baseball, lacrosse, softball and track & field. The NCAA had recently already done this for student-athletes competing in spring sports at Division II and III schools. That means those student-athletes competing in spring sports at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW), an NCAA Division II school, will get an extra year of eligibility. This had to be especially great news for the seniors, who thought their senior seasons were over before they really even started.

As everyone should know by now, due to the spread of the highly-contagious and deadly coronavirus, the NCAA cancelled all intercollegiate spring sports at all of its colleges and universities, including GSW.

This was particularly tough for the seniors who had worked so hard during the last four years to have a chance to go out on a high note. For some of these seniors, it was a chance to finally start after sitting on the bench for the past three years. Others were hoping to impress pro scouts and others were ready to help lead their teams to a possible national championship. Unfortunately, their last opportunity appeared to be going by the boards, but in the end, the right thing was done.

According to NCAA rules, a student-athlete can compete for four years in a five-year period. After those four years are done, a student-athlete’s intercollegiate athletic career is over. Depending on the situation, the NCAA may grant a medical redshirt if a student-athlete is injured, but otherwise, eligibility ends after four years of competition.

Thankfully, however, being that this is a highly unique and unprecedented situation, those seniors who were looking at their careers ending so early will get a second chance. That means the seniors on the GSW baseball, softball, tennis and golf teams will get to come back next spring for their senior seasons.

The 2020 spring sports season at all NCAA schools was totally cancelled a few weeks ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, but each of those student-athletes, especially the seniors, will be allowed to come back and compete next year should they choose to do so.

There will be many challenges that these NCAA programs will have to overcome as a result of this decision, such as how to allot scholarship money. However, this is the right and fair thing to do in light of the circumstances.

I imagine that most of the seniors will want to come back for a “second chance” while others may want to just move on with their lives and begin their professional careers. The good news, however, is that the five seniors on the GSW baseball team, the six seniors on the GSW Lady Hurricanes softball team, the two seniors on the GSW women’s tennis team and the two seniors on the men’s golf team will have the option to come back next year with a chance to finish out their college athletic careers on a high note. Great job NCAA! You did the right thing.

Ken Gustafson is the sports editor for the Americus Times-Recorder. To contact him, call 229-924-2751 or email him at Ken.gustafson@americustimesrecorder.com.