NCAA Granting ‘Extra Year’ & What it Means for High School Seniors

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Looking for a college roster spot just got harder. (Photo by Weston Eichner on Unsplash)

The NCAA’s decision to extend another year of eligibility to fall athletes due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation may have resulted in a collective sigh of relief to those athletic participants, but for the student-athletes set to graduate from high school it creates another hurdle to clear in the their efforts to be recruited. The one-year allowance also could have a domino effect on collegiate programs down the road.

The one-year jump in Division 1 FBS scholarships from 85 to 110 had many originally believing it would have little effect on the Class of ’21 recruits but tha’s not so! At least one instance of a recruit having his scholarship offer rescinded has already occurred. In Gibsonia, PA (16-miles north of Pittsburgh) defensive lineman Miguel Jackson of Pine-Richlands High School recently found out Liberty University is taking away the scholarship offer which Jackson had verbally committed to accept a few months ago. The reason? With the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA Liberty has two senior defensive lineman who are returning for the 2021 season.

When Jackson announced his verbal commitment to the Flames program, it meant several schools (including MAC schools Bowling Green and Central Michigan) likely removed his name from recruiting lists. In the nasty business of college recruiting, coaches commonly use verbals to potentially ‘lock up’ an athlete and to signal to opposing recruiters the player has made his decision. Every year there are horror stories of a player’s verbal commitment failing to turn into an official letter of intent, and the NCAA Covid-related eligibility decision just added another obstacle for graduating high school senior athletes in 2021.

The NCAA decision will create a situation of confusion for many coaching staffs as well. Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Allen is wondering aloud just what kind of an impact the Covid eligibility extension will have on program recruiting over the next few years as all fall athletes, not just seniors, are granted an extra year. Allen told the Bloomington Herald-News, “The ’22 class is the one that’s really going to get affected by this. A certain class has to move on before another class takes their place. That’s where the 2022 class, the ’23 class, that’s the real unknowns for me.” There is less concern for Allen’s 2021 recruiting class. The Hoosiers have 12 scholarship seniors currently with three more non-scholly seniors which is just a few more than currently committed to become incoming freshmen.

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The extra year of eligibility could mean more players looking to transfer.

There are 257 Division 1 programs, 130 of them at the FBS level. The extended eligibility is likely to cause a trickle-down effect for players. Think about the fall of 2021. Since all fall athletes are able to take advantage of the extra year, college football programs the incoming freshmen class and the current frosh players have the potential to occupy 35 or more roster spots.

In an interview with the Associated Press, a Columbus, Ohio area high school coach emphasized how the trickle down will occur. “I think anybody that knows the true workings of inside programs, these college programs will run kids off,” said Pickerington North’s Nate Hillerich. “Kids will be transferring, going to lower levels.”

When the players will use the transfer portal it will mean less high school players will be offered scholarships which may actually create an influx of student-athletes for NCAA Division 2, NAIA and NJCAA football teams. A high school football coach in California believes there will be increased interest in players taking the JuCo route due to the effects on recruiting. “Fast forward a year or two, there’s going to be colleges going through all the JCs to get those players that got caught in the in-between because they can play right away and they’re good vs. recruiting high school kids,” Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson explained to the Associated Press.

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