A sign outside the headquarters of the NCAA in Indianapolis, Indiana. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

The NCAA voted to allow spring-sport athletes another season of eligibility Monday, and Ohio State will grant financial aid for those who return, according to a university spokesperson.

The NCAA vote allows schools to self-apply waivers for an extra season of eligibility to student-athletes who competed during the 2020 spring season after it was shortened due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, according to a release from the NCAA.   

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” council chair and Penn athletic director M. Grace Calhoun said in a statement from the NCAA. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”

The seniors that decide to return for an extra year of eligibility will not be included in the team’s scholarship count, and schools can use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to help pay for the scholarships of student-athletes who return, according to the release.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith publicly stated his support for eligibility relief on a conference call with the media March 13.

“I am definitely in support of an extra year or semester of eligibility for our spring sport athletes,” Smith said. “I haven’t looked at the winter sports. My assumption is off the top of my head I would be supportive of that as well.”

Winter sports were not given an extension of eligibility by the council.

Ohio State men’s lacrosse coach Nick Myers said Smith got on the phone with the Buckeye coaches following the NCAA vote to discuss questions and concerns.

“One of the challenges that we have been faced with as head coaches is the connectivity to young men and women that had a season taken abruptly,” Myers said. “You can imagine how challenging that is to understand and process the end and then not know what the future holds.”

Postgraduates with remaining eligibility must remain enrolled in courses, whether it be a graduate program, second undergraduate degree or general post-baccalaureate coursework, according to an NCAA release from June 2019.

“The choice that our seniors have is great, and it’s a choice that Gene Smith has provided them,” Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals said. “I don’t know how many departments are going to be honoring the scholarship, and the scholarship a lot of the time allows it to happen or not happen.”  

Updated March 31 to reflect the university’s response to the NCAA’s decision.