Jeff Metcalfe, Arizona Republic Published 6:45 p.m. MT March 30, 2020
Maddi Hackbarth (13) of Arizona State bats against Stanford University at Farrington Softball Stadium on Sunday, May 6, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo: Billy Hardiman/Special for The Republic)
Arizona State athletes in 11 spring sports will receive a one-year extension of their college eligibility due to seasons canceled early by the coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday in favor of an extension not just for current seniors but all spring sport athletes impacted by the loss of national championships, announced March 12, and much of their regular season. Winter sports, which also lost their championships, were not included in the decision because much of their regular seasons were completed.
ASU sports impacted by the extension are baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s outdoor track, lacrosse, water polo and beach volleyball.
Teams are allowed to carry more athletes on scholarship to account for those staying who were in their final year of eligibility and incoming recruits.
For athletes with expiring eligibility in 2019-20, each school is allowed to decide if the same amount of financial aid will be awarded for 2020-21. The 35-player roster limit in baseball will be increased to accommodate additional returning players.
ASU has two baseball seniors, catcher Nick Cheema and outfielder Myles Denson, who could potentially play again next season. The major league baseball draft currently still is scheduled for June 10-12 but could be moved into July and reduced to as few as five rounds. Undrafted free agents will be limited to signing bonuses of no more than $20,000.
ASU baseball coach Tracy Smith was somewhat surprised by the Council vote. “I”m comfortable with the decision,” he said, “but the indications a week ago were that it was losing traction and probably not going to happen. The best case scenario was it would be for seniors (only). I’m glad to see a decision that benefits all athletes.”
Giving all spring athletes an extra of eligibility creates an “extended roster management issue,” beyond 2020-21, Smith said.
ASU junior first baseman Spencer Torkelson is expected to be among the first five picks in the draft with shortstop Alika Williams, third baseman Gage Workman and pitchers Justin Fall and RJ Dabovich also projected as high round selections.
ASU baseball coach Tracy Smith said juniors who would normally be draft picks in round 6-15 (out of the normal 40) benefit from the eligibility extension. “It gives them leverage back,” to return rather than sign for $20,000 or less.
ASU softball could have several seniors return including outfielder Kindra Hackbarth, catcher Maddi Hackbarth and pitcher Cielo Meza.
“I’m happy the decision came to give them back a year,” ASU softball coach Trisha Ford said. “My heart hurt for the seniors to have their careers end that way if that was how it was going to be. I didn’t know which way it was going to go,” with the NCAA Council.
“We’re excited to have the seniors that want to come back and be able to mesh them with our talented freshman class this year and next year’s freshmen.”
Ford said figuring out the financial aid ramifications will take time. Schools do have the option to use the NCAA student assistance fund to pay for scholarships for seniors unexpectedly returning in 2020-21.
Giving all spring athletes, not just seniors, an extra year of eligibility is fair, Ford said. “You go down a dangerous path when you start doing it for one (class) and not the others. It’s best to do a stable across the board assessment.”
ASU senior golfers include Chu An Yu and Alex del Rey on the men’s team and Olivia Mehaffey on the women’s team who could opt to turn professional instead of returning.
The NCAA men’s and women’s golf championships were to be played this year in Scottsdale in the first of a three-year commitment to Grayhawk Golf Club.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8053. Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.
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