COLLEGE SPORTS: NWAC gives student-athletes eligibility waivers

They essentially get an additional year of eligibility due to effects on seasons from pandemic

Peninsula College’s Davien Harris-Williams drives against Edmonds in January 2020. Peninsula College student-athletes gained a eligibility waiver for this season because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the NWAC’s sports seasons. (Peninsula Daily News files)

Peninsula College’s Davien Harris-Williams drives against Edmonds in January 2020. Peninsula College student-athletes gained a eligibility waiver for this season because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the NWAC’s sports seasons. (Peninsula Daily News files)

VANCOUVER — The Northwest Athletic Conference Executive Board voted to not charge NWAC student-athletes a year of eligibility for the 2020-21 academic year because of the turmoil caused this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board voted late last week that for the 2020-21 school year, NWAC student-athletes, regardless of the number of games or matches they have played this year, will not be charged a year of eligibility.

“During these very difficult and uncertain times the Executive Board has worked diligently to make thoughtful decisions in the best interest of our student-athletes and member institutions. The Board’s decision to grant a blanket waiver for 2020-2021, not charging our student-athletes a year of eligibility, allows our institutions and students to participate and compete to whatever degree they are able this year,” said NWAC Executive Board Chairman and Pierce College Athletic Director Duncan Stevenson.

“The decision by the Executive Board helps put our student-athletes, coaches, and member colleges a little more at ease. As the conference continues to discuss, plan, and respond to the ever-changing dynamics of the pandemic, the waiver provides a sense of stability,” stated Marco Azurdia, NWAC Executive Director.

“This takes the pressure off of the student athletes, especially those with underlying health conditions that might be at higher risk to participate this year. It also reduces the risk of burning a season that might get cut short, depending on how the pandemic unfolds in 2021,” said Rick Ross, Peninsula College Associate Dean for Athletics and Student Life.

“On the down side, it will impact high school seniors and [community college] sophomores looking for roster spots at colleges and it has a potential financial impact on our athletic scholarship fundraising. We’ll be allowed to bring back players, on scholarship, in addition to the normal NWAC scholarship limits of eight per team for basketball and 11 for soccer,” Ross said.

Peninsula College men’s basketball coach Donald Rollman said the decision gives players more flexibility in deciding their future. The NCAA had already made a similar decision, and that affected junior college athletes wondering if there were going to be any slots available at four-year schools next year. Now, some of those players have options with another potential year of eligibility at the junior college level.

“It’s good news, it gives a little more power to the players,” Rollman said. “It gives them a few more options.”

Peninsula women’s soccer coach Kanyon Anderson said “it could be good, it could be bad.” Anderson said next year could be hard on 2021 high school graduates because of the uncertainties about scholarship slots for student-athletes at all colleges with current college students getting a waiver year.

In any case, Anderson said he is preparing to give his players as positive and normal of a season as possible this spring. Soccer is set to begin in late March after being postponed from this fall.

“Our focus is giving them a great experience this year and getting them some normalcy,” Anderson said.

Men’s and women’s basketball is set to begin in February. Schedules are set to be finalized by the NWAC on Friday.

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