Student-athletes at NJCAA schools will not be charged a year of eligibility for the 2020-21 sport seasons, the association’s Board of Regents ruled on Thursday.

The ruling will apply to all student-athletes at NJCAA schools regardless of whether a sport completes a season or not. The association postponed most sports to the spring semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Board of Regents feels this decision is best for the success and well-being of our student-athletes and member colleges at this time," said Christopher Parker, NJCAA President & CEO in a press release. "There is no right answer to this challenge and situation, but as an association, we are going to support the eligibility of all our student-athletes to help them succeed in their academic and athletic careers."

Returning student-athletes will be considered non-counters for letter of intent and NJCAA eligibility purposes. 

"The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has put collegiate sports in a very challenging situation," said Troy Tucker, NJCAA Eligibility Committee Chair. “(The) decision by the Board of Regents to grant a blanket year of participation waiver provides our institutions and student-athletes with the ability to choose to participate this academic year without the fear of using a year of eligibility for a potentially shortened or interrupted season."

Labette Community College Athletic Director Aaron Keal said he and his coaching staff were aware that the NJCAA was considering this course of action.

“We knew this was a strong possibility for about two weeks, now,” Keal said. “We have a meeting on Tuesday to discuss this within our conference. We may have some rules in our conference to determine how we’ll go forward.” 

Keal said the biggest benefit of this ruling is the clarity it will give coaches on the recruiting trail.

“I think this helps coaches know what they can and can’t do with recruiting and scholarships,” Keal said. “If they didn’t do this now, it’d make planning difficult for coaches.

“It makes this year viable for the student-athlete, gives them direction and the coaches direction on how to proceed for the next year.” 

Labette, along with every other junior college in the nation, has undergone a fall with nearly every sport postponed to the spring semester.

The college’s volleyball team was forced to quarantine for two weeks earlier this fall.

“I think we’ve gotten the most out of it,” Keal said. “We had some minor setbacks, but we’re getting to get on the fields. We had to push back some practice dates and limit everybody to 60 consecutive days. But everybody is taking it pretty well.” 

Safety while pushing towards seasons in 2021 remains the mission for Labette.

“The student-athletes know every decision they make could affect the entire department,” Keal said. “All the decisions everybody makes factors in. We’re making that clear.” 

 

Information from a press release by the NJCAA was used in this report. 

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