On Wednesday, the NCAA Division 1 Council approved a vote allowing winter student-athletes an extra year of eligibility. What does this mean? College seniors who would’ve exhausted their eligibility under normal circumstances will be allowed to return for another year of play after the 2020-21 season. There are still uncertainties as to what this means concerning roster size in the future and whether this approval just applies to those who exhausted their eligibility or if it applies to all student-athletes currently enrolled in college.
In addition, the NCAA Division 1 Council has approved the proposal to allow a one-time transfer without the penalty of sitting out a year. They are expected to vote on this proposal in January. Talking with several college coaches, this proposal is expected to pass. And when it does, it is expected to go into place in August 2021.
Inevitably, this will create a ripple down effect. The 2021 recruiting class has already faced hardships with recruiting over the past two summers. In 2019, the recruiting calendar was changed limiting the number of travel ball live period events. As a result, college coaches spent their entire summer watching 2020s and didn’t have the time to watch 2021s. And then this summer, Covid-19 has caused a dead period for Division 1 programs that has been extended through at least December 31st. A decision still hasn’t been made as to when Division 1 programs will be able to physically recruit again.
What does this mean for recruiting? Things just got tougher. College programs already had the upper hand when it comes to selecting players for scholarships. There are already more scholarship level players than scholarship spots available. Now with college seniors being given an extra year of eligibility, college coaches’ primary focus will be keeping their current roster intact for another season. Experience and depth win championships.
In the past, several players on the borderline between being Division 2 and Division 1 could wait until the spring and potentially move up a level. If you’re a borderline player, these new rulings do not play into the hand of waiting it out for a “better” offer. Now is not the time for anyone to feel like they’re too good to play Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, or Junior College. Contrary to public opinion, playing college basketball at any level is difficult. High level basketball is played at all of those levels.
Another major concern that has yet to be addressed is the number of scholarships spots on a roster. Currently, Division 1 programs are allowed to have 13 scholarships. To my understanding, after the 2020-21 season, schools will be able to keep their seniors with exhausted eligibility on their roster and it won’t count towards their total scholarship number. Meaning they will still be able to bring in their 2021 recruiting class. Will the NCAA allow colleges to increase the number of scholarship spots for each team in future years? After all, this will affect future classes, not just the 2021 class. If they do, this will cost money. Colleges all across the country are being faced with budget cuts. Let’s suppose they do increase the number of scholarships on a roster, coaches will be even more selective in the recruiting process. If they’re going to make an investment on a recruit worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over four years, then they want to get it right.
With the one-time transfer rule more than likely going to be passed, college coaches will start recruiting the transfer portal for upperclassmen first. That means high school recruits will be their second choice. My advice, if you have offers and programs showing you serious interest, then take advantage of it. If it’s the right fit, then don’t hold off waiting for hope of a higher-level offer. As the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.
Now, more than ever, recruits need to be proactive and reciprocate the interest being shown to them from college staffs. Too often, recruits will dismiss a certain school due to their perceived level. Those days are over. If you are receiving interest from a school, make sure you are returning that interest. The time to act is now. Do not wait for the next best thing.