The NCAA Division I Board of Directors announced last week that they will be granting an extra year of eligibility to all fall athletes, regardless of whether they compete in a fall or spring season for their sport. Additionally, seniors who take advantage of their extra year in Fall 2021 will not count against their team’s scholarship limit.
What does this mean for Minnesota? Well let’s a look at their football scholarships.
If the current recruiting class of commits (16, plus Dylan McGill) holds and every scholarship player on the roster were to return for the fall 2021 season, Minnesota would have 101 scholarship athletes. But the 11 seniors would not count towards that total, dropping the number down to 90. That is still five over the limit of 85 scholarship athletes.
Players that could play in an abbreviated winter or spring season and opt to declare for the NFL Draft, rather than use their extra year of eligibility in the fall, are cornerbacks Coney Durr and Benjamin St.-Juste, offensive linemen Conner Olson, Blaise Andries, and Daniel Faalele, and even quarterback Tanner Morgan (though I’d be surprised if he did).
So the usual roster attrition — a combination of players declaring for the NFL, transferring, or simply collecting their diploma and moving on with their lives — will still need to take place for Minnesota to come in under the scholarship limit for Fall 2021.
But the real logistical nightmare would appear to be Fall 2022. Say the Gophers were able to cut their roster down to 85 scholarship athletes for Fall 2021, with the 11 seniors exempted from that total. You bring back those 85 scholarship athletes for Fall 2022, in addition to a full recruiting class, and you’re back around 100, with no exemption for your seniors.
Godspeed and good luck to the coaches who have to cut 15 (or more) scholarship players.
Then there is the financial aspect of the super sized rosters. How many football programs — Power 5 or otherwise — can afford to carry that many scholarships? And remember this extends to all fall sports. It is not limited to football. Considering most athletic departments across the country are in dire financial straits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that is a tall order.
I think the extra year of eligibility for fall athletes was the right call, but I’ll also be the first to admit that it may create more problems than it solves.