Thousands of student-athletes might get an extra year of eligibility because of coronavirus, but it doesn't include basketball yet, and some big names want that changed

Keith Srakocic/AP ImagesTwo of the biggest names in college athletics — UConn’s Geno Auriemma and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski — want the NCAA to extend eligibility for seniors.
  • The NCAA cancelled March Madness and all winter and spring athletics in light of growing concerns surrounding the coronavirus epidemic.
  • After missing out on their final season competing, some senior college athletes have petitioned the NCAA to grant them an extra year of eligibility.
  • The NCAA has committed to granting “eligibility relief” to spring sport athletes, but the logistics of that move still remain unclear.
  • Two of the biggest names in college basketball – UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski – said they hoped the NCAA would extend eligibility for seniors who play basketball.
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Fears of the spreading coronavirus pandemic forced the NCAA to cancel college sports for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, thereby robbing senior student-athletes across the country of their final shot at a national championship.

Or so they thought.

As of Friday, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee announced that it would grant “eligibility relief” to all student-athletes who were set to compete in a spring sport this year. Though the committee admitted that the logistics of granting extra eligibility to these athletes remain unclear, it promised that “appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and weeks,” according to a statement released on Twitter.

But some – including two of the biggest names in all of collegiate athletics – have questioned whether or not the NCAA’s pledge reaches far enough. Both Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma have publicly called on the NCAA to consider granting extra eligibility to basketball players who missed out on the tail end of their senior seasons.

In an appearance on ESPN Thursday evening, Auriemma said the pandemic is “an unprecedented event so you have to take unprecedented measures.”

Geno AuriemmaRoy K. Miller/APUConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma is ‘all for’ his seniors returning for one more year.

“You can’t say this year never happened and wipe away everything because some teams had amazing seasons,” Auriemma said. “They should not be diminished and shouldn’t be wiped away. In terms of each individual, I would be in favour of allowing all those who were seniors that haven’t had the opportunity to play… they should all be given another opportunity to play, regardless of what that does to your scholarship count. And the NCAA should foot the bill for that.”

“What do you do about basketball?” he added. “If you have five seniors like we do, and you say ‘hey, look, they all have the opportunity to come back’ and a kid wants to come back? God bless you, I’m all for it.”

One day later, Coach K echoed similar sentiments in a video statement shared on Twitter Friday afternoon.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY SportsDuke head coach Mike Krzyzewski recognises there would be challenges in allowing senior basketball players an extra year of eligibility.

“There’s tremendous empathy for the student-athletes, especially the seniors,” Krzyzewski said. “I would hope that there would be some relief, at least for the spring sports, that people would be granted an extra year of eligibility, that the seniors would be able to come back, [and] scholarship limits would be flexible in that regard.”

Krzyzewski also said he believes the NCAA “should put on the table for discussion, ‘What about the kids who were not able to finish their senior years playing basketball?'”

Still, he admits it would be complicated to do so, as “only about 20 per cent of the NCAA men’s basketball teams have made it-most seasons were over already.”

It appears the NCAA is grappling with how to make things right for this year’s seniors regardless of season, according to NCAA President Mark Emmert himself:

NCAA president Mark EmmertTim Bradbury/Getty ImagesNCAA President Mark Emmert is looking into extended eligibility for senior basketball players.

“They have not figured out the exact mechanism for that,” he told ESPN. “They are examining what makes sense for winter sports. It’s obviously less clear for winter sports. Almost all of the winter sports were done. We still had a lot of basketball left to be played in the tournaments, but all regular conference play was done. There are a lot of different perspectives on it. Obviously, taking away a tournament opportunity from a young man or young woman is just brutal.”

“On the other hand, who is going to get an extra year?” Emmert added. “Is it everybody, whether they were going to make the tournament or not? Is it only those who are going to continue as graduate students? Is it going to come at the cost of freshmen who were just recruited, and they’re going to come in and not going to get to play? Are they going to extend scholarships and offer more scholarships, and can every school afford that? There are a lot of issues and a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

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