ECU Baseball in the dugout - 2020

The ECU baseball team in the dugout against Liberty University earlier in the season.

According to multiple sources on Twitter, the NCAA Division I Council approved a blanket waiver for all spring sport athletes who had their seasons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, giving them an extra year of eligibility.

In an effort to limit the financial impact on schools and athletic departments, the council also ruled that schools can offer less scholarship aid to seniors, or the same as they provided this year, according to the NCAA’s website.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” Chair of the Division I Council M. Grace Calhoun said in a statement on Twitter. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”

The scholarship limit for spring sports has also been relaxed to help with the incoming class of freshman and returning seniors who otherwise would have been out of eligibility.

Also, returning seniors will not apply to the collegiate baseball roster size limit of 35 players and 27 on scholarship for the 2021 season, according to Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.

Winter sport athletes were not included in the council’s decision on Monday.

The Division I Council is comprised of 41 members and is “a high-level group responsible for the day-to-day decision-making for Division I,” according to the NCAA’s website. All 32 conferences are represented on the council with Senior Woman Administrator for the University of Cinicinnati Maggie McKinley voting on behalf of the American Athletic Conference.

University of Pennsylvania Director of Athletics M. Grace Calhoun chairs the council.

This decision comes a little more than two weeks after the Division I Council Coordination Committee released a statement saying, in part, that “leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports.”

On Sunday, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) put out a statement detailing its position on eligibility relief for athletes. In the memo, the committee called for additional support for housing and food for student-athletes as well as relief for those “in winter sports that qualified for post-season, and were unable to complete the entirety of their season” to go along with all spring contenders.

Additionally, the committee, which is made up of representatives from the Power 5 Conferences, called on the council to renew the scholarships of returning seniors and exclude them toward counting against financial aid limits.

In the coming days and weeks, student-athletes, particularly those who play baseball will be faced with a tough decision. Last week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association struck a deal to limit the upcoming 2020 amateur draft to five rounds and the 2021 draft to 20 rounds instead of the normal 40.

The draft, originally slated to begin on June 10, will be pushed back to sometime in July according to Passan with the majority of a player’s signing bonus deferred until 2021 and 2022. Undrafted players will also be capped at a $20,000 signing bonus before they begin counting against a team’s bonus pool money, a drop from $125,000 in recent years.

Draft pick values will also be fixed at 2019 levels for the next two years, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Those numbers usually rise two to three percent each year and serve as a guide when teams are attempting to sign their players.

For players like junior left-handed pitcher/first baseman Alec Burleson and junior outfielder Bryson Worrell who are projected to be drafted outside of the top-five rounds by DIBaseball, the option of returning to East Carolina University for their senior season may have become the go-to move.

Junior right-handed pitcher Gavin Williams, who is listed as the 62nd-best collegiate prospect by D1Baseball, has a shot to hear his name called within the first five rounds of the MLB draft and could be the lone Pirate selected in the shortened event.

In the case of redshirt senior right-handed pitchers Cam Colmore and Matt Bridges and senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Smith, head coach Cliff Godwin confirmed last week all three would be returning for one final season in purple and gold while senior infielder Nick Barber remains undecided.

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