After the NCAA announced the cancellation of winter and spring championships last week, many spring sports seniors believed their collegiate athletic careers were over.
An NCAA announcement the following day generated hope that their careers weren’t finished.
“Council leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports,” the statement from the NCAA’s Division I Council Coordination Committee said.
The announcement gave athletes hopes that they wouldn’t lose their final seasons.
“Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later time,” the statement said. “Additional issues within the NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and weeks.”
The details are still to be determined, but the statement says eligibility relief for all Division I student-athletes who played spring sports is appropriate.
This means players like Stephen Schoch, a UVa graduate transfer pitcher, are likely to be offered an extra year to play. He plans on taking advantage of that chance.
“If the opportunity presents itself and I can afford it, I’m definitely gonna take that opportunity,” Schoch said.
Schoch, who started his career at Appalachian State before transferring to UMBC and ultimately joining Virginia, tied for the ACC lead in saves with five when the season ended.
He pitched 16 2/3 innings and posted an ERA of 1.62 and struck out 24 batters.
As a kid, Schoch dreamed of playing at UVa. In high school, the Cavaliers never really recruited the right-handed pitcher. Throughout his baseball journey, he kept Virginia in mind before committing to the school as a graduate transfer.
Assuming the NCAA follows through on its word and gives every player an added year of eligibility, Schoch plans on returning to the Cavaliers to fully finish out his childhood dream of playing at Virginia.
“I’ve been patient this long to get to UVa, I figure what’s one more year,” Schoch said.
Schoch, who spent his childhood hoping to play at UVa only to see the season cut short, serves as an example of the players who could benefit from the added year of eligibility.
Others, like graduate pitcher Chesdin Harrington, aren’t sure what the future holds. He planned on going through the season and then determining whether he wanted to turn professional or take a job somewhere outside of baseball.
With the economy taking a downward turn and hiring seeming uncertain, Harrington expects to take a wait-and-see approach to the situation. The MLB Draft status is uncertain as well, making it tough for players like Harrington to know what their future holds.
Returning to UVa next season could be an option.
“Obviously I wasn’t planning back in 2015 on being a 24-year-old senior, but I’d say there’s so much going on right now that nothing is off the table,” Harrington said.
Harrington’s future, like many spring sports upperclassmen, is uncertain.
Just looking at the baseball team, seniors include Logan Michaels, Paul Kosanovich and Evan Sperling. Those players all face decisions in the coming months on what to do with their futures. Junior pitchers Andrew Abbott and Griff McGarry will be draft eligible, and both players are elite talents capable of competing at the professional level.
Even with eligibility relief, UVa baseball’s roster could look noticeably different next spring.
“Paul Kosanovich, we were eating on Friday after a little team get together thing — he’s not someone I ever see show a whole lot of emotion — and he said, ‘Man, you know, I hate saying goodbye to my teammates in March,” Harrington said.
For some, the abrupt end to the season could mean goodbye.
“I could see the disappointment on Paul’s face that yeah, this is it,” Harrington said. “I might not see some of these guys again for the foreseeable future.”