Syracuse Basketball: Extra eligibility is right move, presents challenges

NCAA leaders are weighing whether to give student-athletes at Syracuse basketball and other winter sports an additional stanza of competition.

In late August, we reported on NCAA leaders deciding to grant every fall-sports athlete an additional year of eligibility through a blanket waiver, and now it appears that players for Syracuse basketball and other winter sports may receive the same.

National analyst and writer Jeff Goodman, one of the best in the business, recently tweeted out that the NCAA Division I Council could vote sometime this week on a measure that would potentially provide all winter-sport athletes with an extra term of eligibility.

Goodman quoted a source as saying, “It should pass based on precedence with fall sports.”

We’ll obviously keep a close eye on this development, but, for me personally, this is absolutely the appropriate thing for NCAA leaders to do. And that’s saying something, because I often criticize the NCAA for being an incompetent, foolish organization.

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, as it pertains to college basketball for the ‘Cuse and its peers around the country, teams at the Division I level can only suit up for a maximum of 27 contests this year, and it won’t surprise me if the Orange ultimately competes in fewer games than that.

Leagues around the country are weighing what to do with their members’ dockets, including whether non-conference affairs are realistic, and how many conference clashes to play.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, according to various media reports, expects to have 20 league encounters for each of its member institutions, and that leaves Syracuse basketball and other ACC squads able to put up to seven non-conference battles on their calendars.

However, because the pandemic is such a fluid situation, the Orange and every other winter-sport team nationwide could eventually find itself competing in a vastly shortened upcoming season, and that’s assuming the 2020-21 stanza occurs at all.

If fall-sport athletes are getting an additional campaign of competition, it’s logical that the same would apply to winter-sport players, as their seasons will be shorter than normal, too.

The main dilemma here, though, is how this could affect the Syracuse basketball roster, for example, in 2021-22. First and foremost, do winter-sport athletes get an extra year of eligibility only, but they aren’t guaranteed an additional stanza of actually being on scholarship?

In 2020-21, the ‘Cuse has 13 scholarship guys, and two seniors who should exhaust their eligibility after this upcoming term. The team also has one 2021 commit already and several other prospects that it is pursuing.

If the two Syracuse basketball seniors can stay another year, how that could impact the roster for 2021-22 isn’t entirely clear, but surely Orange coaches will have some shuffling around to do. This could also change up how the ‘Cuse coaching staff continues to recruit for the 2021 cycle.

Even with all of these possible obstacles, NCAA leaders still must do the right thing and take action this week to give winter-sport players an additional campaign of competition.

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