To Play or Not Play


Austin West

NCAA Division III senior athletes, including those at Buena Vista University, have been awarded an extra season eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This becomes a tough choice for these athletes as they would have been finishing their senior season and graduating in the spring of 2021. Currently, the estimate is 25 student-athletes returning for a fifth year. So how do seniors who have completed their education to graduate come back to school for a single sports season?  


The rules given by the university and the NCAA were explained by assistant director of athletics, Amy Maier. The athletes whose seasons would only take up one semester would use a “less than full-time exemption” which has always been there for athletes. This allows students to take less than 12 credit hours a semester. Athletes whose seasons take up more than one semester, such as basketball, they would have to take the minimum 12 credit hours their first semester and use the exemption in the second. Currently, the rules state athletes that are not full-time students may not receive any financial aid and would be required to live off-campus. Maier mentions that this “needs to be reevaluated” and “is currently being discussed at the administrative level.”  


There were two options for classes: working towards graduate school or not. Those who were working towards graduate school would be required to take six hours of graduate school online and pay $3500. Those not working towards graduate school, would have to select at least one class that counted towards a major or a minor. If they had finished the majors and minors already for graduation, this would mean they would have to register for another, take the class or classes, and drop the major/minor prior to graduating. Non-graduate students just pay the cost of the class or classes they signed up for.  


Then comes the decision: do the senior athletes graduate or do they stick around for that extra season? It has become a tough question to answer for many athletes. Cole Ullman, a senior football player, is on of the student athletes who will not be returning. He says a lot of things were considered, as for many other student athletes, including “money/cost, future job and living, also how school isn’t enjoyable due to COVID situation.” Ultimately, he explained that these were the reasons he decided not to come back. “Most of all school isn’t an enjoyable experience due to the COVID protocols…I ultimately had a job and living situation set up and made the decision that was best for me.” 


With plenty of other athletes in the same place as Ullman, it will be an interesting to see how other athletes make their decision in the coming months.