Recently, it was announced that all student-athletes competing during the Fall and Winter seasons would not be charged with a year of eligibility.
This means that seniors who are supposed to be playing their last year can return and play one final season next year. Additionally, students who are not seniors will also be given the opportunity to return as fifth-year seniors to compete.
Athletic Director Matt Franzen spoke about how other national athletic divisions’ decisions affected the NAIA’s decision to follow suit.
“NCAA Division I, Division II and the junior colleges had all early on decided that they were not going to charge all the Fall and Winter sports athletes this year with the season of competition. When that happened, it was really only a matter of time before the NAIA followed suit and did the same thing because we were really the only national organization that hadn’t decided to do that,” Franzen said.
He compared this decision to what happened this past March when Spring sports were shut down. The NAIA made their decision on season eligibility quickly, which allowed senior athletes whose seasons were cut short to return if they wanted to.
This decision is unlike anything seen before, as athletes who competed entire seasons, such as soccer, football, volleyball and cross country, will be allowed to return if they choose to do so. Normally, there is a set percentage or number of games an athlete has to compete in that determines whether they keep their eligibility.
The GPAC was one of a handful of conferences that decided to play in the Fall, according to Franzen.
“Some of the schools in the KCAC basically called their sports off before they could begin the season because they were having too many issues. The Winter sports are just starting. With so many unknowns, are Winter sports going to make it? They might only get through half of their season, and I think what has happened now is the NAIA has given themselves a really big safety valve to say ‘whatever happens with the Fall sports and the Winter sports to come, all of the athletes are going to be given their season of competition back’,” Franzen said.
Franzen also mentioned the issues this brings up from an administrative side, with registrars having to keep track of how many years of eligibility each individual student-athlete has. He did emphasize his belief that this was the right decision and believes it is a great option if sports are continually affected by the pandemic.
“It’s the right thing to do because this is nobody’s fault, and to penalize athletes and say ‘you can’t finish’ or ‘you have to lose a season because this happened’. I think it would be the wrong thing to do,” Franzen said.
A handful of Spring athletes from Baseball and Track are taking the opportunity given to them last Spring to compete again, and there is a possibility they will be given another year of eligibility.