Basketball

The NCAA Needs to give Basketball Players Another Year of Eligibility

According to the sources of Stadium, the NCAA will be holding a meeting on March 30th to make a decision around providing winter athletes with an extra year of eligibility.

The season was entering its greatest form as conference tournaments were just getting underway and you could feel the buzz of March in the air.

In just the first round of the Pac-12 tournament we had great moments like WSU’s blowout upset over Colorado, Cal upsetting Stanford, and Oregon State with the most March Madness moment of any conference tournament game as Jarod Lucas hit the game-winner with 1.8 seconds remaining on the clock.

March Madness has been played every year since 1938. Meaning it’s been 82 years since a collegiate basketball season didn’t end with a tournament that crowned a champion.

For some of these athletes, it’s the greatest moment of their lives. Since the day they picked up a basketball they fantasized about their senior moment representing their school. They deserve to be given the opportunity to ride the rollercoaster that March Madness is.

Imagine you are waiting in line for three hours to ride Space Mountain. The anticipation grows as you see the challenge in front of you but you understand the light at the end of tunnel. You finally make that turn where you can see the cart and you know your moment is coming.

You get situated and strap on that seat belt and the butterflies begin to fill your stomach. You take the opportunity to look at the person by your side and share a moment of excitement as you both know what’s coming next.

It’s finally go time. Everything you want and what waited for is in the palm of your hand and then you overhear the message coming from the walkie talkie of the worker. “We need to clear everyone out of the cart. This ride won’t be operational any time soon.”

The Jaws of every person in the area about reach the floor as they realize what just happened. Hours of their time lost and their favorite attraction at Disneyland gone for the weekend.

Take that moment I just described, and I know most of you have experienced it. Think about how terrible that walk out feels and now multiply by a thousand.

That’s what these athletes are feeling right now. Instead of three hours how about four years and for some of them five. The endless amount of practices, film sessions, workouts, conditionings and road trips all become well worth it when it ends with a trip to the dance.

They earned the right to have that special moment to look at their teammates around them in an unfamiliar locker room and say… “we made it, we’re actually here.”

Moments like these come once in a lifetime for most people and the worst part about it is the way they lost it. These athletes set their goals around this tournament and they didn’t even fall short. They lost it all at the hands of a virus that they played no role in spreading.

Players make decisions around the NCAA tournament. They give up millions of dollars and an opportunity to compete at the highest level just for another shot at dancing their way into early April.

Cassius Winston was a star as a junior for Michigan State and had the NBA in his crosshairs. Instead he decided a return to college basketball and a run at the tournament was worth staying for another year in Lansing, MI.

“Playing in the NBA has always been my dream. I have other dreams as well,” Winston said in a press release when making his decision in April of 2019. “This was an incredible season with an amazing group of teammates, but I believe there is still more to accomplish.”

If Winston would like to return again, then let him. He makes it clear how much he values his collegiate career and the way it came to a close is unacceptable.

Two athletes who also deserve another go around at the big dance both come from the University of Oregon. Sabrina Ionescu and Payton Pritchard should both be granted the opportunity to embrace the spotlight of March.

Ionescu is one of the greatest collegiate athletes ever and Pritchard was just awarded the Lute Olson Award that College Insider hands out to the best individual college basketball player of the year.

Neither of the them ever cut down the nets in April, but both had a great shot at it in this years tournament but their season finale was cancelled.

There is so many more big names out there that lost their moment. Markus Howard was primed for a few more scoring outbreaks and a run into late March.

Killian Tillie battled back from injuries for this opportunity to participate in the tournament and Gonzaga was a projected one-seed.

Also, Myles Powell from Seton Hall had his team anticipating a deep run as well. The list goes on and on. Lamar Stevens, Kerry Blackshear Jr., Udoka Azubuike, Jordan Ford, Zavier Simpson and so many more.

And, I understand that its very unlikely that the NCAA finishes their meeting next Monday by allocating this year’s seniors another year of eligibility, but they have to consider it.

It’s likely that if given the opportunity many wouldn’t return anyways. Many have graduated from school and don’t have a future in professional basketball so they are ready to move on with their lives. For the ones that are really willing to give it their all once again, let them have it.

The NCAA would have to allocate the schools with a few more scholarships per team. As of now Division 1 schools have 13 scholarships to hand out. Why not make that number 16 or 17 just for the one season?

They are not paying the athletes anyways. Might as well use some of the billions of dollars in revenue towards the players getting what they deserve.

The athletes time and effort shouldn’t be lost in the midst of a virus spreading throughout our country. Every Division 1 college basketball player earned the right for their one shining moment, don’t let them lose it this way.

Don’t make these athletes play the “what if” game for the rest of their lives. Let them play the games and write their own stories.

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