By Suzannah Young
While the pandemic turned the world upside down, one industry that was undoubtedly changed was the sports industry. With the cancellation of large-scale events, populous crowds at sports games were prohibited and the future of sports enjoyment was put into question. Even more, cancelled college seasons brought two years of extra eligibility to student-athletes.
Still, not only did the crowds at sporting events pose an obvious problem, but the sports themselves were problematic, as many games and practices require close physical contact by athletes.
As social distancing was called into action, this close contact made traditional sports such as soccer and basketball nearly impossible.
However, after the initial shock of the ‘new normal’, it became apparent that a life without sports was simply not possible. For an industry that thrived so much on the excitement of a new game, major outlets such as ESPN and Fox Sports could only run so many games from past seasons until fans began to crave live sports again.
While professional organizations such as the NBA and NFL were able to eventually conduct somewhat quarantined games as the pandemic continued, college athletics were still awry. It was unclear how college athletes would be kept safe while playing, or how colleges and universities would make up for lost time and money after the spring 2020 season was cut short and all seasons for the 2020-21 school year put at stake.
As a solution, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decided to extend two extra years of eligibility to those student athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new policy, student athletes would have six calendar years instead of the previous five to play four academic years of their sport.
This meant that athletes who were originally expected to graduate and end their collegiate sports career in the 2020-21 school year would now be given an opportunity to compete during the 2021-22 year.
According to Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), a program that helps high school and collegiate athletes with recruitment, this also meant that student athletes had the option to “compete in all or a portion of the 2020-21 season, but it [wouldn’t] be counted for their years of eligibility.”
For many Barry athletes, this extension of eligibility provided new opportunities on and off the field.
Laura Wappelhorst, a junior finance major on the rowing team, feels that the extra time has allowed her an opportunity that would otherwise not be possible. With the extended eligibility, Wappelhorst now has two years left to participate in rowing.
“I plan on using this to [maintain my] sports scholarship for my undergrad and also [use it for] my master’s now,” Wappelhorst says.
On the flip side however, senior baseball player Elijah Eusebe, who is majoring in communications, plans to use the extra year as an opportunity to extend his athletic career.
“[Having that extra year] benefitted me a lot. I had more time on my hands so I had time to practice more,” Eusebe said. “Now, I plan on using the extra time to try to get drafted or just extend my school.”
While Wappelhorst and Eusebe plan to use their extra years of eligibility in years to come, some, like softball player Peyton Germer, are using the extra eligibility now.
After graduating in May 2021 with a degree in business management, Germer is now using her athletic scholarship provided by the extra year of eligibility to get her master’s in curriculum and instruction with a specialty in mathematics.
“Pre-pandemic, I was prepared to graduate and move on with my teaching certifications to enter the workforce as a teacher,” said Germer. “I am now focusing on continuing my education.”
Although both Wappelhorst and Germer may not be planning to use their extra years of eligibility for any post-college athletic endeavors, Wappelhorst says that the time provided during the pandemic did help her to improve herself as an athlete.
“I had much more time in general to focus on myself,” Wappelhorst says. “I was able to really focused on sports because academically, it seemed so much easier.”
Germer also values this opportunity, since without it, she would not have continued her education.
“Without my extra year, I would not be getting a masters,” said Germer. “This is a blessing because I can work towards my masters now instead of years down the line."