The NCAA Board of Directors approved a blanket waiver Friday, which will allow fall sports athletes to retain their eligibility for the 2021-22 season.
According to Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, that means athletes will retain a year of eligibility regardless of whether or not they participate in their fall sport's 2020-21 season.
For example, if a senior football player plays this season in the fall or spring, they will still be eligible to return next season. Auerbach noted that senior athletes who want to return next season will not have their scholarships counted against the limit of their schools.
With regard to college football, several conferences have opted to postpone their 2020 season until the spring, including the Pac-12 and Big Ten. Meanwhile, the SEC, Big 12 and ACC are still planning to play their seasons in the fall.
Without the blanket waiver, the unique environment amid COVID-19 would have put student-athletes in a difficult position in terms of deciding whether they should play in 2020.
Those who were concerned about wasting a year of eligibility in 2020 on a season that may not crown a true national champion can now play without losing that year.
Top players are likely to enter the 2021 NFL draft regardless, and several high-profile players have already opted out of the 2020 college football season in order to focus on the draft.
Among them are Wake Forest wide receiver Sage Surratt, Michigan offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield, LSU defensive back Kary Vincent Jr., Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks, Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson, Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
Seniors who may have been fringe NFL prospects will now have two opportunities to impress NFL talent evaluators if they so choose, provided they play for a school that is competing in 2020.
With athletes essentially receiving a red shirt for the 2020 season, perhaps it will make some more likely to play as long as they are comfortable with the safety measures being taken during the coronavirus pandemic.