Winter sports athletes allowed extra year of eligibility

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Photo by Marquette Wire stock photo

Lauren Van Kleunen battles for the ball in a game against Green Bay last season.

The NCAA granted Division I winter sports athletes an extra year of eligibility Oct. 14 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This decision will apply to men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, ice hockey, indoor track and field, swimming and diving and wrestling.

“We were all a little surprised,” women’s basketball head coach Megan Duffy said. “I honestly thought that they might wait until the end of the basketball seasons to make that call. It was interesting, we learned at the first official day of practice that there was potential for everybody to get their extra year.”

Men’s basketball senior guard Koby McEwen said he believes the NCAA made the right decision.

“I can see a lot of guys using that opportunity to come back and better themselves as athletes and students,” McEwen said. “I think it’s only right to give those (players) opportunities with the current situation that the country’s in. … That’s something you can’t really determine until it’s time to make that decision.”

However, men’s basketball senior forward Jamal Cain said depending on the season’s outcome, if a player has a good year, they may not take advantage of an extra year.

“They’re going to try to leave and try and get paid. That’s what the ultimate goal is while you’re here,” Cain said.

While women’s basketball senior guard Selena Lott said she is focusing on this season rather than planning on if she is taking a fifth year, senior forward Theo John said it is up to the individual.

“Every college athlete has a different journey,” John said. “With the NCAA giving those guys an extra year of opportunity, that’s the right thing to do. You never know what’s going to happen, it’s 2020. You may be playing tomorrow, you may not be. … Every player will take it into their own hands to see if it’s the best opportunity for them.”

Duffy said it will be interesting to see how this decision will affect each team’s roster in the future. When the news was announced, Duffy had one thing to say to Lott and fellow redshirt senior Lauren Van Kleunen.

“I told Lauren and Selena, ‘guys, I want to keep you for like eight to 10 years,'” Duffy said. “‘We have a chance to keep you in college.’ I was like ‘you guys don’t want to go into the real world anyway.'”

Van Kleunen, who is already in her fifth season due to a medical redshirt her first year, said it is huge the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility because it takes the pressure off of players. She said since there is so much unknown about the season, this decision allows players to take this year one day at a time and play more freely.

“In terms of having a possible sixth year, it’s always great to have that chance to come back to Marquette and play again,” Van Kleunen said. “I love putting on the Marquette uniform. (It’s) the pride I have for this university. To be able to come back and have another chance at it, is great.”

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at iisabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford