Before college football season began, the NCAA was smart enough (for once) to give collegiate athletes playing fall sports some leeway with participation.
They have the option to sit out while retaining their scholarship if they do not feel safe due to COVID-19. They also have the option to get another year of eligibility given the irregularity of this season.
We may find out this month whether or not that logic will hold for winter sports.
Sources: As the Division 1 Council prepares for a mid-October meeting in a few weeks, one major talking point to monitor is whether or not players in winter sports will receive an additional year of eligibility due to COVID-19.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 3, 2020
According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, that topic of conversation is on the books for the Division 1 Council during their mid-October meeting. This decision will impact 10 sports, including college basketball.
NCAA Winter Sports
- Men’s and women’s basketball teams
- Women’s bowling
- Men’s and women’s fencing
- Men’s and women’s gymnastics
- Men’s and women’s ice hockey teams
- Men’s, women’s, and mixed rifle
- Men’s, women’s, and mixed skiing
- Men’s and women’s swimming and diving
- Men’s and women’s indoor track and field
- Men’s wrestling
Obviously, most Kentucky Wildcats fans are most concerned with college basketball. But if you think about it, very few Kentucky players use up all of the eligibility allowed before the coronavirus changed the world. Would Reid Travis have stayed for an extra year? Nate Sestina? Maybe. Looking at this year’s roster, are there any players that may benefit from that extra year?
Getting this out of the way, none of the new incoming freshmen or Keion Brooks will be around that long.
Olivier Sarr has always been a one-year guy as he fine-tunes for the NBA. Could an injury situation change that? Maybe. But the likelihood of him returning to Kentucky for a second year is highly unlikely.
However, Sarr hasn’t even been ruled eligible yet as he still needs a waiver from the SEC. There’s been reports that several SEC coaches are pushing against Sarr being eligible. The issue stems from an SEC rule that anyone who transfers into the conference must have two or more seasons of eligibility left to be immediately eligible.
Because Sarr has just one season left, he may have to sit out this season before being eligible in 2021-22, though it’s more likely he’d be in the pros by then.
However, if college hoops players get an extra season of eligibility, Sarr would have two seasons left, thus fulfilling the SEC requirement. So whatever decision the NCAA makes could decide if Sarr plays this season or not.
The other senior transfer, Davion Mintz, however, could also spend another year in college if the NCAA grants another year of eligibility. The transfer from Creighton is working on his Master’s degree at Kentucky, and staying a second year may allow him to play ball while he finishes up. And depending on how playing time shakes out this year, he may have a better chance to see the court in 2021-2022.
The other two to consider are Jacob Toppin and Dontaie Allen. Neither have ever been projected as lottery picks. Both have major upside, but it could take a few more years to refine those skills for either guy to have a chance at playing professionally. So I would argue that those two are the most likely to potentially consider that extra year of eligibility.
This is all a moot point if the Division I Council does not approve this idea. Knowing the NCAA, it is difficult to tell what decision they may make. But if this extra year of eligibility is approved, this may be just the Kentucky roster to take advantage of it.