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NCAA grants extra year for spring athletes

College seniors from Valley Isle consider returning next season

Colton Cowell, a graduate of King Kekaulike High School who was in his senior season for the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team, has said he is leaning toward returning next season if “the circumstances are right.” UH ATHLETICS photos

The Associated Press and The Maui News

The NCAA will permit Division I spring-sport athletes — such as baseball, softball and men’s volleyball players — who had their seasons shortened by the coronavirus pandemic to have an additional year of eligibility.

The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to give spring-sport athletes regardless of their year in school a way to get back the season they lost, but it did not guarantee financial aid to the current crop of seniors if they return to play next year.

Winter sports, such as basketball and hockey, were not included in the decision because many athletes in those sports had completed all or most of their regular seasons, the council decided.

The council is made up of college sports administrators representing all 32 D-I conferences, plus two members of the student-athlete advisory committee. Voting is weighted to give the Power Five conferences more say. Chairwoman Grace Calhoun, who is Penn’s athletic director, declined to reveal the final vote.

Seabury Hall graduate Amy Ozee says she is unsure if she will return after her senior season for the UH beach volleyball team was cut short.

“At the end we really did coalesce around all of the decisions that we made today,” Calhoun said. “They were strongly supported.”

How much scholarship money will be made available to each athlete whose college career would have ended this spring will be determined by the athlete’s school. The amount could range from nothing to as much as the athlete had been receiving.

“We were anticipating this decision from the NCAA and have done some preliminary evaluation,” University of Hawaii athletics director David Matlin said in a statement released by the school. “We understand the situation that our spring sport student-athletes are in and are sensitive to them. That said, we will continue to evaluate our options and do what is in the best interest for our athletic program as a whole in fiscally responsible and thoughtful manner.”

The added scholarships could cost a school hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it would usually spend on spring-sport athletes. The extra expenses come at a time when athletic departments could be facing cutbacks. The pandemic forced the cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which cut the association’s distribution to members by $375 million this year.

“We had long discussions around the fact that this does not avoid substantially difficult circumstances, but what we felt was important was to localize that decision-making and to ensure that we were as permissive as possible,” Calhoun said. “At the end of the day, each institution is going to have to figure out what it can do.”

Schools will be able to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility in 2020-21.

Roster and scholarship limits for teams will be adjusted next season to fit returning seniors and incoming freshman.

Maui’s spring athletes who had their college senior seasons cut short now must decide whether or not to return to their respective schools.

Last week, King Kekaulike High School graduate Colton Cowell told The Maui News that he is leaning toward a return to the Rainbow Warriors men’s volleyball team.

“(There are) certain financial implications that I’m going to have to look into with my family and my coaching staff once the decision is made by the NCAA,” he said. “But thus far my intention is if the opportunity presents itself and the circumstances are right, I would definitely enjoy staying another year and competing for the Rainbow Warriors.”

UH beach volleyball senior Amy Ozee, a graduate of Seabury Hall, said Monday that she is “undecided on what I’m going to do with my future.”

“For my personal decision, it’s probably going to take a couple weeks to decide just because there’s so many different variables,” said Ozee, who is set to graduate in May with a business marketing degree. She had planned to move to California after graduation and start her professional career.

“So once this extra year was granted, there’s not a lot of money, but there’s enough to support some of the athletes,” she said. “They’re still getting down the details and it depends so much on each program, but some schools might have enough money to offer … I don’t know, there’s just so many different variables.”

UH has scheduled a meeting for today during which coaches will discuss the impact of the NCAA’s ruling, according to Hawaii Warrior World.

Portland State golfer Jasmine Cabajar, a Maui High alum, is also considering her options — the health science major will be graduating in June.

“It’s a big decision. At first, I was open to the idea because my senior year was cut short like that and I didn’t want to end it like that, end it that way, but it’s a big decision,” she said. “I have to think through it first. I’m not really too sure yet what’s going to happen.”

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