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How has COVID-19 Impacted NCAA Eligibility?

COVID-19 forced the NCAA to cancel all championships in the spring of 2020, prompting them to propose “eligibility relief” to senior student athletes who missed out on the opportunity to compete in their sports at that time. The decision to offer this additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools, and seniors who opt to return will not count towards the team’s scholarship limit.

What do these changes in eligibility mean for the student athlete trying to earn a spot on a DI or DII roster for the 2020-21 or the 2021-22 school year?

2020-21 Recruits

Because eligibility relief allows senior athletes to compete for an additional year, a program’s coach’s recruiting needs may change—especially if they decide to hold roster spots for current athletes who plan to return for a fifth year. If you have been communicating with a coach, or have committed to play for a program, make sure you check in with your contacts at that school regularly.
If you are a 2020 seniors who has already committed, eligibility relief could impact your rookie year. If the program you plan to play for includes several seniors, you could be facing a very different roster if your school decides to honor an extension of eligibility. Fortunately, the NCAA D1 Council announced that seniors who return will not count against the team’s scholarship limit.

2021-22 Recruits

We don’t know exactly how the NCAA’s proposed eligibility extension for current 2020 college seniors will impact 2021 recruits, but it’s safe to say that roster spot availability and scholarship opportunities will not be affected for D1 programs. However, the recruiting “dead period” in effect through at least August 31st will change the recruiting process. Just because swimming coaches can’t recruit in person, potential 2021 NCAA college program recruits can still stay on the scouting staff’s radar:

  • Create a highlight video. Because coaches currently can’t evaluate athletes in-person at athletic events, deliver the next best thing: create a highlight video to embed on your student athlete profile. Their next best option to evaluate talent is by watching highlight video on a student-athlete’s recruiting profile. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Put together the best one you can.
  • Reach out via email. An introductory email is a great way to start the recruiting conversation with the coach of a program you’re interested in. Be informed about the school in general, and how the coaching staff approaches your sport. Embed the link to your highlight video, and end the email letting the coach know you’ll be following up in the coming week or so.
  • Pick up the phone. About a week later, keep the conversation going with a phone call to the coach. Asking if they’ve had an opportunity to review your email and view your video is a good opening. Know what else you want to say on the phone call and practice in advance.

Remember: The NCAA has proposed and approved “eligibility relief” to student athletes who missed out on the opportunity to compete in the spring of 2020, but the actual decision to offer this additional year of eligibility is at the discretion of individual schools. Therefore, the best advice is always to keep in touch with your contacts at the schools you’re interested in to determine what—if any—changes COVID-19 has created in their sports programs related to eligibility and recruiting.

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