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DI Council extends eligibility for winter sport student-athletes

Members also provide additional flexibility in championships selection, membership requirements

Winter sport student-athletes who compete during 2020-21 in Division I will receive both an additional season of competition and an additional year in which to complete it, the Division I Council decided. The same flexibility was provided to student-athletes after the spring season was canceled in 2020 and the fall season was seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Council met by videoconference Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The pandemic will continue to impact winter sport seasons in ways we can’t predict. Council members opted to provide for winter sport student-athletes the same flexibility given spring and fall sports previously,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “The actions today ensure the continuation of local decision-making in the best interest of each institution and its student-athletes.”

Additionally, Division I schools will not be required to sponsor the minimum required number of sports for membership purposes, provided the school indicated on its Sports and Demographics Survey forms that it intended to sponsor the requisite number of sports but cannot due to COVID-19 challenges.

Schools also will not be required to sponsor a sport in each season, and multisport conferences are not required to meet minimum sport sponsorship requirements. 

The Council also agreed to grant a blanket waiver for 2020-21 to allow conferences to earn an automatic bid in fall championships if a minimum of three member schools participated in conference competition in that sport. The membership will collaboratively address automatic qualifications and at-large allocations should there be a change to field sizes in winter and spring sports, except for men’s and women’s basketball.

The Competition Oversight Committee previously had approved flexibility for championships selection:

  • Teams in winter sports can participate in as few as 50% of the required minimum contests/dates of competition and still be considered for championships selection. Men’s and women’s basketball previously set their minimum contest number at 13. This reduction is consistent with what was provided for fall sports.
  • 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.

The Council also moved all legislation that was tabled from the 2019-20 legislative cycle into the 2021-22 cycle.