Following the NCAA’s March 30 announcement of extending eligibility to seniors who lost their spring sports season, SIU baseball is returning six athletes and as a result, is forced to make budget adjustments.
According to the NCAA stipulations on extending eligibility, this decision allows schools to self-apply a one-year extension of eligibility for spring-sport student-athletes, effectively extending each student’s five-year “clock” by a year.
“This decision was especially important for student-athletes who had reached the end of their five-year clock in 2020 and saw their seasons end abruptly,” the NCAA announced in a written statement.
Liz Jarnigan, SIU director of athletics, said in a phone interview in early April the department is in favor of the decision and will be offering extended eligibility to senior athletes, but covering the cost of student-athlete scholarships will be difficult to manage.
“When we say that student-athlete well-being is first and foremost in the work that we do, this decision placed the well-being and the consideration of student-athletes first,” Jarnigan said previously. “So we’re very very much in support of it, however it is quite a costly endeavor and so now we’re having to figure out how we are able to manage that.”
To help accommodate returning athletes to rosters, the NCAA eliminated the 35 player roster limit for the baseball teams and allowed for scholarships to be less than 25% of a student’s tuition and fees.
The NCAA announced in March that stipulations on their Student Assistance Fund, which is distributed among member schools annually, will be waived to allow for use in supporting scholarships.
Despite this, Jarnigan said in early April the department will be receiving around $700,000 less than usual from this fund due to the NCAA cutting their distributions to membership institutions this fiscal year by about 64%.
Jarnigan said in an interview with the DE on Sept. 3 some of the teams have already gone over their budgets for this season, but it was expected that it would happen this year with the extra scholarship costs.
On the athletics scholarships, Jarnigan said “SIU spends over $5 million a year in scholarships and those are investments in our student athletes and their academic careers.”
Scholarships had been expensive before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s now much more difficult this year with the losses of football in the fall, Jarnigan said.
Despite this, Jarnigan said the scholarships are a worthwhile risk and that the cost is worth taking on these students.
One SIU team that has exceeded their budget limit for the 2021 season is the Saluki baseball team, which will return six players that originally were set to graduate in May 2020.
According to Jarnigan, all six of these players are being given partial scholarships totalling $40,000 between them, so including the cost of tuition at SIU, the university is still making $180,000 in profit.
The NCAA rules allow teams to have a capacity of spending a combined cost of what 11.7 total tuition scholarships would cost for baseball teams.
According to SIU head baseball coach Lance Rhodes, “The seniors who have chosen to come back won’t have their scholarships count towards the 11.7 scholarship limit that Division I teams are allowed.”
Rhodes said the baseball program invited all of their seniors to return and they were fortunate to where a lot of their seniors chose to come back. According to Rhodes, these seniors will still be on scholarships if they had them previously.
While the Salukis currently do not exceed the previous roster limit, they have two more players than they had last season with 33 this season compared to last year’s 31.
Players who had already gotten the necessary credits to graduate last year and wanted to stay another year could either enter graduate school or start a second bachelor’s degree.
Most of the players have chosen to enter graduate school for a year, according to Rhodes.
Sports reporter Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @RyanscottDE.
Sports reporter Brooke Buerck can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bbuerck25. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.