The NCAA announced Oct. 14 it would offer additional eligibility to Division I student-athletes who participate in winter sports, extending the same courtesy it gave last year’s spring and this year’s fall student-athletes due to COVID-19. The Division I Council decided winter sport student-athletes — men’s and women’s basketball in Loyola’s case — will receive an extra year of eligibility as well as an additional year to complete it.
“The pandemic will continue to impact winter sport seasons in ways we can’t predict,” Council Chair M. Grace Calhoun said in the release. “Council members opted to provide for winter sport student-athletes the same flexibility given spring and fall sports previously. The actions today ensure the continuation of local decision-making in the best interest of each institution and its student-athletes.”
Calhoun didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Michelle Hosick, an NCAA spokesperson, said the Council felt it was important to get its verdict out there early.
“The Council members acknowledged that this winter season is not likely to be a normal one, and wanted to give student-athletes the certainty of knowing that whatever decision they make about this season, they will be able to participate in another season,” Hosick said in an email to The Phoenix.
Hosick also confirmed the added eligibility applies to all winter sport student-athletes, regardless of how much they play this upcoming season.
Loyola women’s basketball head coach Kate Achter said the biggest impact of the NCAA’s ruling for her team is with senior guard Bre Hampton-Bey, who transferred from the University of Massachusetts this summer. Hampton-Bey, who played with sophomore guard Jala Johnson in high school, has already used three years of eligibility.
Hampton-Bey would typically be forced to sit out a season after transferring, according to NCAA transfer rules. However, since her transfer to Loyola in May, there have been discussions about applying for a waiver for her to be immediately eligible. But Achter said she was wary of Hampton-Bey using her final year of eligibility this upcoming season amid all the uncertainty due to COVID-19 and how it will impact scheduling.
“My discussions with Bre were centered around ‘if you’re not going to play a full season … then it’s not worth it,’” Achter said of their conversations prior to the NCAA’s announcement on eligibility. “You might as well get everything you can out of your last year in college.”
But with the new NCAA ruling, there’s now a sense of urgency to apply for the waiver. If it gets approved, Hampton-Bey would have the opportunity to play two seasons for the Ramblers if she also chooses to accept the extra eligibility granted to all winter sport student-athletes.
“We are applying for an NCAA waiver,” Achter said. “We’re trying our best to get Bre a waiver to get her immediately eligible because then we get her for two years essentially. We’re going to try, but as of right now she’s still redshirting.”
While the NCAA’s decision could have large implications for Loyola’s women’s basketball team, Loyola men’s basketball head coach Porter Moser is trying to limit the impact it has on his squad.
“That’s a tricky one because you want them to have a senior urgency,” Moser said in a teleconference Oct. 15. “I’m glad the NCAA did it. I think it’s great for everyone.”
Moser said he agrees with the ruling because he feels it can ease some anxiety that comes with the threat of COVID-19 derailing a team’s season. However, he also doesn’t want his team — which has six players set to graduate after the season — to become complacent knowing they have an extra year of eligibility to fall back on.
The release also said, “teams in winter sports are not required to have an overall won-lost record of .500 or better, which is normally required for teams to be eligible for at-large championships selections. This also is consistent with what was provided for fall sports teams.”
It also restated teams only need to participate in 13 games to be eligible for postseason championship selection, which is half of the normal 26-game requirement. This was previously disclosed Sept. 16 when college basketball’s return was announced.
These rulings could be especially important for Loyola’s women’s basketball team, which is expected to have significantly fewer non-conference games compared to a typical season.
Achter said the plan is for her team to play four non-conference games along with the typical 18 games on the conference schedule. While that 22-game slate is well above the minimum requirement to be postseason eligible, it’s unclear how the conference schedules for both men’s and women’s will work logistically.
The city of Chicago has imposed strict travel restrictions due to COVID-19, implementing a required 14-day quarantine from high risk states. These states include Iowa, Missouri and Indiana, which have a combined six MVC teams.
The current plan is for men’s basketball to start its conference play against Drake University at Gentile Arena Dec. 30 while women’s basketball opens on the road at Valparaiso University Jan. 1.