With College Sports Shut Down, NCAA Hopes To Give Senior Athletes A 2nd Chance Student athletes normally are ineligible to continue playing after graduation. But with college careers cut short by the coronavirus, the NCAA may allow Division 1 seniors to play next year.

With College Sports Shut Down, NCAA Hopes To Give Senior Athletes A 2nd Chance

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Normally, much of the country right now would be consumed by March Madness. Of course nothing is normal, and college basketball has been suspended. In fact, the NCAA has shut down all winter and spring sports. And that's left some students wondering whether they'll ever get another shot at a championship. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Katie Hoeg dreamed about this season of lacrosse.


UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR: The pass in front, and there it is. Katie Hoeg, you are No. 1 in the history of point scorers for the Tar Heels.

GOLDMAN: Hoeg is a senior attacker for the University of North Carolina women's lacrosse team. She set that points record earlier this month. But that wasn't her dream. Winning a national championship was. And the No. 1 ranked Tar Heels were off to a good start - 6-0 until last Thursday. That's the day Hoeg entered teammates read the NCAA tweet announcing every sport was done.

KATIE HOEG: Like, we really wanted to be angry at a specific person or anything. But we knew that there was nothing to be angry about. Like, this was completely out of our control. And this obviously stinks for us and our season. But we completely understand the decision.

GOLDMAN: Hoeg's thoughts immediately went to, what if?

HOEG: And I was talking about it with another senior on my team. And we were just like, if we were given the chance to come back, would you come back? And we both looked at each other, and we were like, absolutely. Like, there's no way we can just end it on these terms.

GOLDMAN: And the NCAA agrees. It supports so-called eligibility relief and is discussing how to extend careers for Division 1 senior athletes in spring and winter sports, too, meaning all those basketball players missing out on March Madness. Divisions II and III spring sport athletes already have been granted relief. Even NCAA critics applaud the moves. Remortgage Huma is a longtime activist for college athletes' rights.

RAMOGI HUMA: For the NCAA, having seen them dug in on so many other basic issues over the years, I think for this issue, they've been relatively responsive.

GOLDMAN: Hammering out the details of that response will be challenging. It's why the NCAA hasn't yet formally announced its plan for Division I eligibility relief. What will happen with team roster limits with some seniors coming back? And Huma notes there's the thorny issue of money - which schools can pay an extra year of athletic scholarships.

HUMA: Some colleges won't miss a beat. Others probably would. And maybe it's time for some of the colleges with more money to step up and maybe make a pool of money available.

GOLDMAN: For seniors who suddenly could come back, some have postgraduate plans that might be hard to change. Katie Hoeg says she's lucky. She was planning a gap year before starting dental school. And the job she'd lined up teaching and coaching lacrosse at a high school - her employer supports her return to college. In the meantime, she says she's training with her three younger siblings at her home and a nearby field, preparing for what she hopes is another chance at a dream season. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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