Senior Olivia Scarbrough is one of the first athletes to express interest in a fifth-year designation under the new rulings from the NCAA and NAIA for a return to Grace College. (File photos by Mike Deak)
WINONA LAKE – As college spring sports seasons all over the country were falling apart in recent weeks, a movement began online and within the college ranks for a resolution of sorts.
And the NCAA listened.
In a decision announced at the end of March, the NCAA, including the NAIA, will be allowed to grant those who were in a spring sport a “fifth” season. The rules allow for those athletes to enter next season with the same financial and athletic eligibility and amenities they would have had this spring.
Grace College had eight sports active this spring when institutions across the country were shut down, including full athletic calendars for all sports. Per the guidelines set by the NCAA, any and all of those athletes can return for an extra season per certain guidelines.
Grace softball senior Olivia Scarbrough is one of the seniors considering a return to campus next year.
“Right now, for my family and I, we are constantly seeking the Lord and trying to listen to where He would have me to go,” Scarbrough said. “I have already been granted a fifth year of eligibility by Grace, which I am thankful for. However, this decision is not a small or light decision for me and my family. I have already been accepted into graduate school at a few quality schools and have opportunities at those schools and elsewhere. We trust that God will give me clarity on where and what he has for me in the next year.
“If I decide to come back to Grace, I will be pursuing a master’s degree either in Athletic Administration or Business Administration,” continued Scarbrough. “Grace has been generous and will allow me to complete a master’s in Business Administration within a year – beginning this summer through next summer – if that is the route I decide to go. My main goal is pursuing a master’s degree right now and gaining experience in my field to be better equipped for my future career.”
Grace athletic director Chad Briscoe sets some questions straight in a Q & A earlier this week. (Briscoe’s answers are in bold)
Kaitlyn Heffner is pondering a return to Grace softball for a fifth season.
Does the athlete get a full year of school paid?
No – the athlete receives a scholarship for their undergraduate degree. If the athlete graduates and desires to return they either have to begin work towards another undergraduate program or begin a masters degree program. They must be a full time student in either to remain eligible. They will receive scholarship dollars with either direction they choose.
Does the athlete need to attend class to maintain collegiate status if she technically graduates this spring?
Yes. The athlete must be a full time student in either another undergraduate program or a masters degree program offered by Grace College.
How does job opportunities play into it for those who would normally enter the work force after graduation; and if they choose to come back to play ball for another season?
This is a decision the athlete will have to make regarding any jobs they may have explored leading up to the end of the year. They will have to choose if they wish to go into the work force or return for one more year to play. We have some students who have paid internships while in school. They could get a job in the community as well but must be enrolled full time. If a graduated senior wishes to return we will assist them with that experience. We will cover scholarship levels that they were receiving at the undergraduate level and also provide scholarships for masters level as well.
Is there a roster size limitation for any program?
Not for the Grace College roster – there is a postseason limit if we make it to the NAIA or NCCAA nationals.
Is there a penalty for athletes to transfer in this ‘fifth-year’ designation? For example, if there is an athlete wanting to come to Grace because their last year at another institution provides a difficult situation, can they jump in right away for Grace? Or vice versa if someone wants to leave Grace and join someone else?
Athletes in the Crossroads League are able to transfer school to school to pursue a graduate degree — IF they have graduated from their previous institution. They are eligible to play right away and do not have to sit out a year. NAIA student athletes as long as they are academically eligible can transfer and NCAA student athletes can transfer and be eligible to play immediately.
Is there a cut-off date for the decisions, and can the students opt out if they discover their situations (and/or “needs”) change?
Not a cut off date but we are trying to finalize things by the end of May. They can opt out later if they commit and things change.
Do you have an approximate number of athletes Grace has had to reapply for a fifth-year status?
Not yet – working through that now. We do not anticipate it being a large number — we have many seniors who already have jobs lined up and are wanting to pursue the next step! The totals for all Crossroads League teams might not be known until things start back in the fall.