Spring athletes get another year of eligibility

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The vote by the NCAA to allow schools to decide whether to grant spring sport athletes an additional year of eligibility left some TCU athletes with hope but winter athletes disappointed.

“There was no perfect choice in this decision, however, I believe the Council did the right thing for the most important group of people in this equation: the current student athletes,” TCU baseball head coach Jim Schlossnagle said in a statement. “Now, it’s our job as coaches and athletic administrators to make it all work…that process is going to be challenging and, for some, there are going to have to be adjustments made for the future.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Charles King said the seniors’ financial aid packages are likely to remain the same, but the athletes will receive nothing more from the university. 

While the monetary value of current senior scholarships could vary between seasons, the NCAA adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more scholarship athletes to make space for incoming recruits and athletes who decide to stay, according to a press release from the NCAA. 

After losses to USC and top-ranked Vanderbilt and a win over No. 2 UCLA in California, the Frogs found out once they landed in Dallas that their season would no longer be played with fans in the stands. Four days later, the season ended for King and his other teammates.

“It all happened so quick and I was just kinda in shock because it got pulled from underneath us pretty quickly,” King said.

Senior TCU baseball players took to Twitter to plead the NCAA for another chance to compete for a championship when they learned their season would be cut short due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus.

“That dream was understandably taken from us this year due to the safety of our nation,” senior left-handed pitcher Haylen Green wrote in a tweet.  “What I pray is that you give me, and seniors like me across the nation another year to chase that dream, one more chance to hold that trophy with tears of joy in our eyes and smiles across our faces that says all our hard work has finally paid off.”

King and third baseman Conner Shepherd also expressed their desire for one more year on social media.

“I believe baseball tells you when it’s time to hang up the cleats and move on with your life,” Shepherd said. “However, a virus was not the way that we envisioned our seasons and possible careers coming to an end.”

“Up until the last minute we really didn’t have any idea what the outcome was going to be so that was why a lot of us were pretty scared,” King said.

Once the NCAA made the announcement March 30, TCU athletes were quick to express their gratitude on the decision.

“Thank you for not taking the easy way out and showing that not all things are economically driven,” redshirt senior baseball player Hunter Wolfe said.

King said some senior athletes are applying for masters programs to stay enrolled as students; he will be working toward a masters in biology.

The NCAA also increased the baseball roster limit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. King said he is excited not only to have another year on the team but also to have another year in a leadership position.

“One of the things we really talked about this season especially with the seniors and the coaches is usually the strongest teams anywhere throughout the nation are teams that have a lot of seniors or upperclassman leadership,” King said. “When you have a class of younger guys coming up through, having strong leadership at the top helps set up the program and establish how things should be run.”

King hopes to have the same impact on first-years as Brian Howard, a pitcher in the Oakland Athletic’s organization, had on him during his freshman year.

Howard, a former TCU standout pitcher, made three-straight appearances on the mound in the College World Series and two-straight Big 12 All-Tournament teams in 2016 and 2017. He was drafted in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB Draft by Oakland.

“He helped me speed the process up of becoming a college baseball player and becoming a young adult,” King said. “Now that’s my job to help the freshmen and the freshmen coming in to make that transition not only in baseball but in life.”

The decision made by the NCAA didn’t include an extra year for winter athletes whose seasons were cut short due to the uncertain spread of the virus.

The TCU women’s basketball team entered the postseason with a 22-7 record and was preparing for a run in the NCAA Tournament but now will not get the chance to compete together as a team again.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by the news we got today about not getting our year back,” said senior Kianna Ray in an Instagram post.

This was the second set of disappointing news head coach Raegan Pebley had to share with her athletes in the last few weeks — first, the season was cut short, and now they would not get another chance to compete together.

“I’ve shared news that has broken my players’ hearts one too many times in the last few weeks,” Pebley wrote in a tweet.

TCU has yet to announce how it will go about financial aid for current senior athletes who may choose to return for an additional season.