Reports: Fall Athletes Will Not Lose Year of NCAA Eligibility

By Dan Smith on August 20, 2020 at 4:10 pm
Dec 28, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Pat Freiermuth (87) reacts after scoring a two point conversion during the second half against the Memphis Tigers at AT&T Stadium.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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According to reports by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated and Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, the NCAA Division I Council has proposed a plan that would allow all fall sport athletes to participate at any point, fall or spring, in the 2020-21 season without using a year of NCAA eligibility. This reported proposal would be voted on by the NCAA Board of Governors tomorrow, Friday, August 21.

Per Auerbach, this would mean that any current seniors would be allowed to return in fall 2021 to participate without counting against their programs' 85-scholarship limit. A precedent was already set for this with the spring 2020 athletes, though this latest proposal would apply even if the fall seasons are completed at some point.

Penn State has nine full scholarship players who would have had senior eligibility for the 2020 season. Six of them are in the trenches: offensive linemen Michael Menet, Will Fries, and Anthony Whigan, and defensive linemen Shaka Toney, Shane Simmons, and Antonio Shelton. The other three are starters in the secondary: safeties Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker, as well as cornerback Tariq-Castro Fields. Additionally, wide receiver/special-teams gunner Isaac Lutz and offensive lineman Hunter Kelly are seniors who played on scholarship in 2019.

Thamel noted other proposals, including one that would move the football championships to the spring. It is unclear how this would bridge a possible gap between fall seasons for conferences like the ACC, Big 12, and SEC, and spring seasons for the Big Ten and Pac-12.

Additionally, the D-I Council proposed a plan for how teams with spring seasons would be allowed to meet and practice in the fall. As noted in the reports from Thamel and Auerbach, these proposals would now be in the hands of the Board of Governors. We should learn more Friday about how the NCAA plans to move forward.

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