With the NCAA’s decision to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring student-athletes Monday, seniors from 12 Ohio State sports will have to decide whether another year is worth delaying post-grad opportunities.
Senior student-athletes will have to weigh post-graduation commitments and financial situations, among other things, against another season playing their respective sports. While the NCAA ruling means Ohio State can extend financial aid to seniors for their returning season, not all athletes have full scholarships.
Some players will attend graduate school or have a job lined up after graduation that cannot wait an extra year, and women’s lacrosse head coach Amy Bokker said she will support her players in making the choices that are best for them.
“We talked through all of that and what is best for each of them individually, and that’s important to understand,” Bokker said. “What are their individual dreams and individual aspirations and how can we get them there as Ohio State coaches?”
Other Ohio State coaches demonstrated similar support for their seniors during a conference call Tuesday.
“As coaches, we’re working really hard to make sure we put their best interest first, and if their best interest is taking a full-time job, we’re encouraging that,” men’s lacrosse head coach Nick Myers said. “Even if it means a competitive loss for us.”
While senior scholarships will be renewed, many athletes will have to pay a price. 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.
Buckeye coaches said baseball, men’s lacrosse and men’s tennis have no athletes on full scholarships, and Bokker said women’s lacrosse has one senior on a full scholarship.
“We can’t in good faith tell a young man to come back and take on more debt, as much as he’d love to suit up one more time for the Buckeyes,” Myers said.
Each team has a specified amount of scholarship money available, which determines the amount given to athletes. Ohio State baseball head coach Greg Beals said his team has the monetary equivalent of 11.7 full scholarships, but the money is spread across the 35-player roster.
Bokker said the women’s lacrosse team has 12 full scholarships on her team’s 37-player roster, though just one of her players individually had one.
However, the NCAA’s Monday statement said returning seniors will not count toward the pre-existing scholarship limit, allowing seniors financial aid without taking away from the younger athletes.
Smaller rosters will be at an advantage, having an increase in aid resulting in an increase in talent, men’s tennis head coach Ty Tucker said. While men’s tennis only has one senior, Tucker said other teams that have multiple seniors would benefit.
“Our seniors are the ones that we’re really hoping to come through a little more,” Tucker said. “Essentially if you have 4 1/2 scholarships, you could have some teams next year with 7 1/2 scholarships and some with five.”
Beals said he is relieved to have an answer to the question of eligibility.
“I’m really happy that we have clarity now, that my seniors are going to have the opportunity to have closure and make their decision and not have it ended by the coronavirus,” Beals said.