The last two days have felt like a decade. Every five minutes, the news cycle delivered a new body blow and the bad news flowed flowing like the dang Colorado River. On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA delivered the news that fans would not be permitted to attend any winter sports championships including March Madness and the NCAA Hockey Tournament. This news, of course, was followed up by the NBA suspending its season Wednesday night after Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus, better known to some as COVID-19. And that was just Wednesday.
The news only got worse on Thursday as the NHL suspended its own season and Major League Baseball postponed Opening Day by at least two weeks. That was then topped by every single college athletics conference canceling their conference tournaments in every sport. Not to be outdone, the NCAA took their fan ban four steps further and delivered the week’s most crushing blow by canceling all remaining championship events for the 2019-2020 school year, effectively starting the collegiate offseason three months early.
All of this and more happened in a span of roughly 36 hours thanks to the rapid and alarming spread of COVID-19.
But now, on Friday afternoon, to balance out the week from hell, we finally have some good news:
NCAA Board of Governors guidance to members: pic.twitter.com/SrTxuO4XuM
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 13, 2020
What does that mean, you ask? Well, I’ll let the professionals weigh in:
Per source, NCAA sent a note to membership today saying it believes "it will be appropriate to grant relief for the use of a season for competition for student-athletes who have participated in spring sports."
NCAA will start working on issues tied to this & winter athletes.
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 13, 2020
Players in spring sports get another year of eligibility.
NCAA looking into what to do with those who played winter sports. https://t.co/7YXwFpV4pM
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 13, 2020
While this may not fully ease the sting of canceling all remaining sports for this season – it does hurt, a lot – there is now a silver lining to all of the doom and gloom. For Denver, this means that current members of the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, golf teams, and tennis teams will all be granted an extra year of eligibility after their seasons were abruptly cut short by COVID-19. This is huge for seniors like Ethan Walker, Danny Logan, and Carson Gregg, to name just a few, who will be eligible to return for another year of competition in 2021.
And the good news doesn’t end there. While the path forward is admittedly much murkier for student-athletes competing in winter sports as the vast majority of those seasons had been completed, the NCAA is at least considering how to make good for these student-athletes.
For Denver Hockey, this could mean another year of eligibility for seniors Tyson McLellan, Liam Finlay, Michael Davies, and Erich Fear, should they choose to take up the potential offer from the NCAA.
For the gymnastics team, senior star and AAI Award finalist Maddie Karr could be allowed to return for one more season of competition. Even for the ski team, whose season ended in the middle of national championship competition, this could mean another year of eligibility for each member of the best ski program in the country.
The bottom line here is this. The NCAA fully recognizes that even though it was absolutely necessary, canceling these events abruptly like this seriously damaged student-athletes’ careers and will be doing its best to rectify that.
There are many hoops still to jump through – think financial viability for potential fifth-year seniors – to make this happen but the fact that they are taking action this quickly and on a large scale like this is encouraging and cause for at least a bit of celebration in the midst of this international crisis.
As more news related to eligibility breaks, we will continue to update you via Twitter, primarily and other posts for major breaking news. So if you haven’t done so already, be sure to follow @LetsGoDU on Twitter to keep up-to-date with this situation as it unfolds and continues to affect DU.
Top photo of Ethan Walker against North Carolina courtesy of Denver Athletics