NCAA Gives ‘Blanket Waiver’ To Fall Sports Athletes Amid Conference Cancellations

NCAA football players run onto the field
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

The NCAA announced on Friday that it granted what it called a “blanket waiver” to athletes that participate in fall sports on Friday. Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported on Twitter that the organization made it clear those covered under the waiver would benefit from what will be a lost season for some.

The NCAA announced that fall sport athletes can keep their year of eligibility no matter if they play this autumn or spring or don’t play at all. That’s important because college football especially is in a state of flux.

Some conferences, including the Big Ten, the Pac 12 and the Mountain West announced earlier this summer that they are postponing their autumn sports. The conferences did not announce when they will attempt to stage volleyball and football seasons but it’s not expected to be anytime before 2021.

However, the Big 12, the ACC, the SEC and Conference USA are all planning on starting their seasons next month. The uneven nature of the conferences had left some wondering how the NCAA was going to approach things, as they’ve largely stayed out of the decisions on whether the 2020 seasons should move forward.

The move by the NCAA means that players that would have exhausted their college eligibility in 2020 will be able to come back and play in 2021 without counting against their program’s scholarship limit.

A shot of the field where an NCAA football game is being played
  Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

This is the same basic approach the organization used when it came to winter and spring teams when the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the NCAA baseball season were both canceled after the coronavirus outbreak started in the United States.

The Big Ten, Pac 12 and Mountain West all pointed to the pandemic still raging across the country as the reason they don’t plan to participate in football and other fall sports until the spring of next year at the earliest.

It is possible the 2020 slates could be wiped out altogether and they will start fresh with a regular approach next autumn.

Auerbach pointed out the language the NCAA used means that it’s giving what coaches earlier this week called a “golden ticket.” That’s because someone who played for one of the teams going ahead with their season will still not lose a year of eligibility.

The analyst said this appeared to be a way not to punish those members of programs who have no choice in whether or not their schools choose to go ahead with their schedules. The NCAA reportedly felt as though it had to issue a blanket for those sitting out and those playing in order to be as fair as possible to everyone.