After COVID-19 shortened or halted seasons last fall and winter, the National Collegiate Athletic Association extended athlete eligibility to six years.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III is granting student athletes one last chance to compete after the COVID-19 pandemic robbed them of potential seasons.
Webster University athletes who competed in fall or winter sports can now return to play after graduating if they choose to pursue a graduate degree or second major through the university.
In the past, NCAA athletes only had five years to compete in four seasons in their sport. When COVID-19 emerged, fall and winter sport athletes had seasons that were truncated or, in some cases, no seasons at all.
To compensate for lost seasons, NCAA athletes now have six years to play four years in their sport. This means that athletes can return after graduating, or take an extra year off and still compete within that six year contingency.
Scott Kilgallon, Webster University’s athletic director, believes that this de-legislation decision is more than reasonable for student athletes.
“I think it was common sense management by the NCAA,” Kilgallon said. “I think everyone felt really bad, certainly because of either truncated seasons or no seasons at all. I think it made sense for the student athletes to get that option. You can’t regain that experience. You only go through this four years of your life [once]. ”
Student athletes who choose to take advantage of this opportunity have been in direct contact with the athletics department. Many student athletes are in different places within their eligibility, so Kilgallon said there is close oversight taking place.
“There’s been a lot of work on that to make sure that we are complying with the blanket waiver,” Kilgallon said. “Of course, you want to make sure you’re giving strong, accurate advice to student athletes to make sure they understand everything that impacts them – from their eligibility to the financial component. I would definitely say there’s a lot more time being spent individually with student athletes who are considering this option.”
Graduate student Rodson Etienne decided to seize this opportunity so he could have one last basketball season after graduating in the spring of 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports communication.
Etienne had initially planned to play basketball overseas following his college athletic career. However, COVID-19 and the stipulations associated with the pandemic made him reevaluate his plans.
“I had to think about it because I had other plans,” Etienne said. “My plan was to try to go overseas, but when COVID hit, there were a lot of restrictions overseas. So, I thought it would be a good chance for me to come back and play and use that time to get better and pursue going overseas next summer.”
With his previous season being defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, Etienne looks forward to the upcoming basketball season making up for the atypical past.
“Last year, we played ten games, you know, COVID season,” Etienne said. “It didn’t really count. That’s why we’ve got this year to play. It wasn’t the best season I’ve had. So this year, the goal is to win it all – win the SLIAC title, then go to Nationals – because last year we didn’t have Nationals. If you won, that was it for you. So this year, [the team’s] goal is to win it all and then go to Nationals and compete with the big teams.”
Nathan Freyling made the decision to take a semester off and come back the next year to compete in cross country. With his senior season of cross country on the horizon, Freyling didn’t want his season to be defined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wanted to give myself a fair chance to make Nationals for cross country and I didn’t want to end on a bad note,” Freyling said. “Cross country has been around for half my life or so. I love the sport and I wanted to give myself a fair opportunity to end on a good note and not end on a nonexistent season.”
What Etienne and Freyling have in common is the desire to be back with their teammates one last time. Etienne looks forward to the upcoming basketball season, with the first game kicking off Nov. 9, 2021.
“Come out to some games, support,” Etienne said. “Tell your friends to come out and support [the team]. We have a very special team. It’s one of the reasons I came back because I knew it would be good this year.”