Virus Outbreak-Sports Basketball

The NCAA announced additional rulings in response to COVID-19.

As the NCAA continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, several rulings have been handed down over the past two weeks.

Eligibility relief for spring student-athletes is coming, though the specifics and details are yet to be hammered out. The NCAA announced in a statement on Friday, along with a host of other decisions, that it will vote on eligibility relief and other "related issues" on March 30.

The door could still be open for some relief for winter sports athletes affected by the pandemic — both the Division I basketball and wrestling tournaments, the two biggest NCAA winter competitions were canceled — but the likelihood of an extra season of eligibility being granted is very slim to none.

It would be incredibly hard to draw lines as well, considering some postseason tournaments were already finished or nearly so as conferences proceeded to close their tournaments.

Interestingly enough, Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said during a media teleconference on March 16 that it was not the NCAA that directed the individual conference tournaments to shut down. 

In fact, it was the conference tournaments making the decision that forced the NCAA to cancel the tournaments. In any case, as COVID-19 infections race past 300,000 worldwide and near 25,000 in the United States, the tournament would have likely been canceled regardless.

As an extra point of relief, the NCAA also said on Friday that it would allow schools to reimburse student-athletes and their families for canceled recruiting trips. This also includes team trips overseas that were scrapped due to COVID-19.

On March 18, the NCAA directed all schools to stop in-person recruiting, both on-campus and in-home. That directive is in effect until April 15, though that date could be pushed back.

Currently coaches are allowed to communicate with athletes electronically and by mail.

In addition, April 15 is also when prospective NCAA student-athletes will be able to sign their National Letter of Intent. Currently, NLI's are suspended and cannot be submitted to the NCAA.

Reached for comment, University of Montana Athletic Director Kent Haslam said Montana did not have any prospects incur expenses on visits. Montana State Athletic Director Leon Costello had not responded to an email request for comment by press time.

The NCAA also announced several administrative measures, including, "Blanket waivers for specific membership requirements that schools who canceled spring sports cannot meet (including minimum sport sponsorship and scheduling requirements, as well as form submissions)."

This basically means that due to the unforeseen circumstances, requirements — such as those associated with Title IX — will not be enforced for spring sports.

“The NCAA Division I Council and its Coordination Committee recognize that the decisions they make must be grounded in the values of higher education and must reflect the realities of the challenges facing higher education. This is certainly magnified during this unprecedented period resulting from COVID-19,” NCAA Division I Council chair Grace Calhoun said in the NCAA's Friday statement.

“To that end, as an example, the Coordination Committee, acting on behalf of the Council, took timely action to address health and safety concerns among student-athletes, prospective student-athletes and coaches. The Coordination Committee identified other issues that lend themselves to full Council review and decision-making.”

Lastly, the NCAA also waived the deadline for schools that are reclassifying to submit strategic plans. Five schools — the University of St. Thomas, UC San Diego, Tarleton State, Dixie State and Bellarmine University — have announced plans to reclassify to Division I, but have yet to formally begin the process.

Tarleton State and Dixie State are both transitioning to FCS Independent status in football and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in all other sports.

Jordan Hansen covers a bunch of stuff for the Missoulian and 406 Sports. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com

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