NCAA panel backs spring athlete eligibility relief

Could NCAA allow another year of eligibility for seniors? (1:17)

Jay Bilas contends that the NCAA could absolutely allow another year of eligibility for seniors, but there would be a few challenges to overcome. (1:17)

In response to the cancellation of collegiate spring sports due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA Division I Council Committee has recommended that eligibility relief be provided to all student-athletes who participate in spring sports.

"Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time," the NCAA said Friday in a statement. "Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and week."

Assuming the eligibility relief recommendations from the committee go into effect -- which is expected -- the NCAA will need to adjust its rules about scholarship limits. Those details are expected to be ironed out in the coming weeks.

In an email to a large group of administrators and other parties working in college athletics, committee chair Dr. Grace Calhoun, the athletic director at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote that the committee will "also discuss issues related to seasons of competition for winter sport student-athletes who were unable to participate in conference and NCAA championships."

It's unclear what options, if any, will be considered for winter sports athletes. Because the season was nearly complete, there are significant logistical challenges. However, a source told ESPN that the committee members wanted to discuss the issue further.

"I think for the spring sports athletes, it's a good idea. I like the idea of some kind of a make-good there and that's the way to do it,'' Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said Friday.

Baseball, beach volleyball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's lacrosse, rowing, softball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field, men's volleyball and women's water polo are all classified as spring sports by the NCAA.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said he plans to push for legislation that would allow seniors to return to school and for roster exemptions that would help make it happen.

"I think any senior who had a championship opportunity taken away because of this should get another year,'' he said. "I don't know if the NCAA will take that up. But you have track athletes, you have gymnasts, you have swimmers and divers, and basketball, that what they worked for all year was taken away. I think we should give those kids another year. Whether that happens or not, I don't know.

"Yeah, we'll have that conversation,'' he said. "That makes a lot of sense and it's the humane, fair thing to do.''

North Carolina lacrosse attacker Katie Hoeg, who is a two-time All-American and the school's all-time leading scorer, has a teaching and coaching job lined up after she graduates this spring. She said she will make arrangements to return for some grad courses and play lacrosse next year if she's allowed.

"I'm choosing my passion," Hoeg said. "I can't imagine ending my lacrosse career the way this season is going. I was pretty hopeful this would be a possibility. I'm really excited this decision has been made. It's such a weird circumstance. This has never happened before. It would be pretty unfair to have our careers or have this year taken away from us. I do agree with their decision because of the circumstances."

The Ivy League, which hasn't allowed athletes to pursue a fifth year at its schools in the past, said it is "working with our schools to identify and consider various issues, including those related to the ongoing eligibility of senior spring student-athletes.''

The NCAA also informed schools on Friday that a recruiting dead period is now in effect through April 15, banning all on-campus visits for recruits and off-campus recruiting travel for coaches.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.