Barton senior student-athletes will get chance to return

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Editor's note: This story has been changed to indicate that 25 Barton senior student-athletes, not the 50-60 originally suggested, will be affected by an NCAA decision to extend eligibility.

Barton College Athletic Director Todd Wilkinson estimates approximately 25 senior spring sports student-athletes will be affected by a provision approved last week to extend NCAA Division II eligibility because of the coronavirus threat.

Spring sports seasons had reached the midpoint when the NCAA shut down activity for 2019-20 at the Division I, II and III levels. Barton is a member of the Division II Conference Carolinas.

The Bulldogs field spring sports teams in baseball, softball, men's volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s track and field.

Wilkinson reported the college endorses the decision by the Division II Administrative Committee to grant spring sports student-athletes an additional year of eligibility as the result of regulations and policies impacted by COVID-19.

Committee changes covered recruiting, reinstatement extensions, application of financial aid, playing and practice seasons, academic eligibility and membership reporting requirements.

“During this unprecedented period of time, it’s important that NCAA committees and the leaders who serve on them make decisions to best serve the needs of institutions, student-athletes and coaches,” stated Sandra Jordan, chancellor of South Carolina Aiken and chair of the Division II Presidents Council, in a prepared release. “These changes are the start of how we will adopt regulations and policies to help Division II move forward during a challenging period.”

After the Collegiate Commissioners Association decided to suspend all National Letter of Intent signings until at least April 15, the committee adopted a resolution to specify that institutional athletics aid agreements cannot be issued until at least April 15 to align with the recruiting dead period.

Wilkinson noted a caveat comes with the extended eligibility in that eligible student-athletes have the opportunity to earn their master’s degree while playing a spring sport. He reminded that eligibility will be influenced by academic performances during the current spring period — when classes are not in session and students are working on their own.

Barton’s AD also spoke of numerous variables.

“Scholarship limits have to be figured out in each sport,” Wilkinson observed. “It may be necessary to soften the maximum to allow them to fit in.

“It’s fine if they are able to come back and play. But a lot of things have to fall in place for the individual. Academically, does it work? It absolutely is a benefit.

“The scholarship fit is a great example. Everybody is not getting a full athletic grant. College loans are involved. It may not work and the student-athlete may decide to move on and start (his or her) life.”

Is the situation affordable?

Wilkinson pointed out coaches normally recruit with one or two years in the future in mind. The predicament could arise that a coach anticipates a student-athlete completing his eligibility and has planned upon a recruit being awarded the scholarship. However, the senior decides to take advantage of the extension.

“Then, you have two people on a scholarship,” Wilkinson explained. “It may not fit into the overall revenue scheme. It’s an area we definitely have to look at. It needs to fit into the budget and revenue scheme.

“But we will certainly look at it in all areas and try to make it happen.”