Syracuse Football: Extra year of eligibility is right call, may pose challenges

The NCAA will give all fall-sports athletes an extra season of eligibility, but that could create future roster hiccups for Syracuse football and its peers.

In a landmark move for Syracuse football and other teams around the country, the NCAA’s board of directors is granting every fall-sports athlete an additional year of eligibility through a blanket waiver.

This unprecedented measure, which I commend the NCAA’s brass for taking, comes amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and applies to players in all fall sports, including football, even if squads like the Orange actually end up competing this fall.

At this juncture, Syracuse football and its Atlantic Coast Conference counterparts are planning to have a 2020 campaign, along with those crews in the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference. The Big Ten Conference and the Pac-12 Conference, however, have at least for now halted their 2020 football stanzas slated for the fall.

As far as Division I fall sports other than FBS football, the NCAA’s board says in an announcement that it “will work toward hosting scaled back fall championships in the spring.”

While these actions decided upon by NCAA leaders are appropriate and certainly fair given the pandemic, they could create some complications for schools.

It’s important to note that, per the NCAA’s press release, “The financial aid of fall sport senior student-athletes who take advantage of the additional year of eligibility and extended clock will not count against team limits in 2021-22.”

Nate Mink of Syracuse.com writes in an article that the NCAA’s move “means roster sizes in football next year will likely be the highest in 30 years, since scholarship limits were capped at 85 players in 1992.”

Any senior on the Orange football squad who elects to come back in 2021, for example, wouldn’t count against the 85-player cap. Yet in the following term, the ‘Cuse roster would have to decrease to 85 guys, “which could send kids into the transfer portal as coaches work out who it wants suiting up for their team,” Mink points out.

All of this could affect recruiting, he says. “It also portends to put future high school recruits at risk of getting squeezed out, especially if a coach wants to build an older, more experienced roster with their current players instead of bringing in a full class of young high school prospects,” Mink reports.

Without question, I believe that all fall-sports athletes are owed an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic. It’s the correct and sensible call. But the obstacles that could get produced as a result of the NCAA board’s decision are legitimate and valid, too.