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The NCAA proposes granting an extra year of eligibility to all spring sports athletes

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It probably won’t affect Vanderbilt baseball too much, but you never know.

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Well, this is interesting.

This is, frankly, the right thing to do. Winter sport student-athletes are a bit of a different situation; for instance, Vanderbilt basketball players actually completed their season (no, they weren’t going to get invited to a postseason tournament, and both completed their stay in the SEC Tournament.)

But spring sports? Vanderbilt’s baseball team was scheduled to play its first SEC game today. Baseball players were deprived of basically an entire season, and the right thing to do is to give them that season back.

Now, a few words on what constitutes a “spring sport.” In spite of the fact that the championship is in April, bowling is considered a winter sport. The Vanderbilt athletic programs that would be affected by this are baseball, golf, lacrosse, and tennis.

(Left unsaid by this is what would be done about scholarship limitations. Presumably, student-athletes being granted an extra year across the board will probably screw up the scholarship count for a few years until current freshmen cycle out of the program.)

This probably won’t end up being a huge deal. Many non-revenue sport athletes will just be fine with four years in college, and won’t end up using the extra year of eligibility. Others may not want to delay their professional career and will enter the MLB Draft (or turn professional in golf or tennis) as soon as they originally planned. But an interesting side effect of this change might be seen in this June’s (we assume it will be in June) MLB Draft.

MLB Draft rules require players at a four-year college to have completed their junior year or be at least 21 years of age before they can be drafted. That rule has meant that college juniors maintain a bit of leverage from the threat to return to school for another year; meanwhile, seniors have basically no leverage and often have to sign for a pittance because the other option is to simply not play professional baseball. But what happens if seniors suddenly can return to school?

What happens if juniors suddenly have two years of eligibility remaining instead of one?

This year’s MLB Draft suddenly became weird. Every college player will have more leverage than usual in contract negotiations, because the NCAA has given it to them. I won’t predict that there will be too much of an effect (particularly on Vanderbilt baseball, where there are a lot of players who will get drafted), but I would not be surprised if some players suddenly find themselves with an additional year of college eligibility and decide that they’ll still have some leverage in 2021.