If you haven't already heard, the 2020 college baseball season has officially been cancelled for all teams at all levels. This comes as no surprise since the NCAA formally announced the cancellation of the College World Series and all spring sport championships on March 12th as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NAIA, NJCAA, and CCCAA followed shortly after cancelling their spring sport championships.
RIP to the 2020 college baseball season.
Over the past 2 weeks, thousands of players, fans, parents, and coaches have expressed their concerns with how college baseball will operate in 2021, and rightfully so. We are living in unprecedented times. It's hard enough for high school players and parents to understand the complexities of college baseball eligibility rules, let alone the changing rules specifically caused by this pandemic. Because many of you have reached out to us with questions regarding this situation, we are going to answer some in an FAQ format below.
1. General Questions
Does everyone receive another year of eligibility?
YES. The NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, and CCCAA have all granted their spring sport athletes eligibility relief. This means that ALL classes will receive another year of eligibility, not just seniors. Players that have already redshirted before the 2020 season will be classified as a "double redshirt" in their respective class. Here is a quick breakdown to clarify:
2020 ➞ 2021
Senior ➞ Redshirt Senior
Junior ➞ Redshirt Junior
Sophomore ➞ Redshirt Sophomore
Freshman ➞ Redshirt Freshman
High School Senior ➞ Freshman
How will scholarships and roster sizes be affected since seniors are coming back?
The returning seniors will not count toward the 11.7 scholarships (for D1) or the 35 man roster limit. This means the 11.7 scholarships will be divided up between incoming freshmen, returning freshmen, returning sophomores, and returning juniors. The scholarships that will be given to the returning seniors can be thought of as "bonus scholarships" as they will not count against the 11.7 total. Coaches will be given the power to offer those seniors their 2020 scholarship for the 2021 season without any penalty from the NCAA. The NCAA will allow their member schools to handle this on a school-by-school basis.
Will the 35/27 rule change since there will be more players?
The NCAA will allow 35 players on the roster PLUS whatever seniors return from the 2020 season. So if a team has 10 seniors return to their team in 2021, they will be carrying a 45 man roster. The 27 part of the rule references how many of the 35 players on the roster are allowed to be on scholarship. That will not change. This means that the 11.7 scholarships can be divided up between 27 of the 35 players on the roster, leaving a minimum of 8 players to be classified as "walk-ons". Again, this does not include returning seniors for 2021.
2. College Seniors
If I graduate in May/June 2020, do I have to go back to school in order to play in 2021?
Yes. Even though you were given another year of athletic eligibility, you must remain academically eligible. This means you must complete 12 units per semester toward your degree in order to play. If you are a senior that is graduating after the Spring 2020 term, your only realistic option is to enroll in graduate school for the 2020-2021 academic school year if you want to play another season of college baseball. If you are a senior that is graduating after the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 term, then you may want to add a minor to prolong your undergraduate degree. Please speak to your Athletic Academic Adviser about the options available.
Will they pay my tuition if I go back to school for another year?
No. The NCAA will not pay your tuition for another year of school. If you decide to go to graduate school, it will be out of your own pocket (minus whatever scholarships you are given). Because of this, there are many seniors that will be forced to give up playing college baseball and join the workforce simply because they cannot afford another year's tuition. The one way to get around this is to transfer to a new program where the university has a more affordable tuition.
Can I still play next season if I exhausted my eligibility clock?
Yes. The NCAA will allow seniors to file for an extension of their eligibility clock. For those that don't know about the eligibility clock, you are allowed 5 years to complete 4 years of athletic competition once you step foot on campus. For seniors that exhausted their 5th year of eligibility in 2020, you are allowed to apply for an additional year. This question only pertains to 5th year seniors.
3. College Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors
I already redshirted once before, then the cancelled 2020 season turned me into a double redshirt. Will this affect my eligibility clock in the future?
Yes. Every player has 5 years to complete 4 years of eligibility. Since you will need 6 years to complete your 4 years of competition, you will need to apply for an extension after your 5th year. The NCAA will be generous granting this in the next few years given the situation. Please talk to your Academic Athletic Adviser to make sure everything is squared away.
I am a junior college player, will my eligibility be affected if I transfer to a 4-year school in the fall?
No, but it's not automatic. The NJCAA and CCCAA both gave their spring student athletes eligibility relief, meaning you will not lose a year of eligibility if you stay at your junior college in 2021. However if you transfer to a 4-year school in the fall, you will not be given that year of eligibility. Instead, those that transfer to a 4-year must file an appeal with the NJCAA or CCCAA to get that year back. The President/CEO of NJCAA has stated that they will immediately approve all of these eligibility requests. So players that transfer to a 4-year in the fall will get their year back, they just need to be aware of the extra steps that need to be taken in order to make that happen.
4. High School Seniors
Will I lose a roster spot because the seniors at my school decided to come back?
No. As we stated in the General section above, returning seniors are exempt from the 35 man roster limit. This means you will be given your scholarship money and roster spot as planned. HOWEVER, there will be significantly more competition because players are coming back (and seniors usually play more than freshmen because they are more developed and experienced). You will have to work very hard to earn playing time over them.
I am an uncommitted senior that didn't get to play my senior season, are schools even looking for incoming freshmen since seniors are coming back?
Absolutely! Colleges are still looking for players. The best way to handle this situation as an uncommitted high school senior is to reach out to schools you are interested in via email with a highlight video. Since everyone is stuck in quarantine, coaches actually have time to look at emails and plan for the future. Remember to keep EVERY door open, meaning don't buy in to the "D1 or Bust" mentality. Lower level schools may be able to provide you with opportunities that D1 schools cannot, so keep all of your options open. Just understand that your class has been put in a very tough situation, so it is very possible that college coaches will only offer you a walk-on roster spot for your first year with no guarantee of playing time.
I really want to play baseball in college but don't know where to start with this COVID-19 situation. What should I do?
We highly suggest you take a look at the map/list feature on our website to get an idea of what schools are located in your general area. There is a ton of great talent at the D2, D3, and NAIA levels, so don't be afraid to reach out to those coaches if the school seems to be the right fit for you. Keep this in mind: those lower level schools sign high school seniors all the time. You don't have to be committed to them as a junior in high school to make the team. They will quite regularly sign players a month or two before classes start in the fall. Additionally, junior college is a fantastic route for players to buy another 2 years if they aren't sure what to do next. There are many options out there, so don't give up!
We hope these FAQ's answered some of your questions regarding how college baseball will operate moving forward. Please feel free to email us any additional questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!