Returned year of eligibility likely to go unused by many spring sport athletes

Ashley Laughlin
Ashley Laughlin at the plate against Butte. Photo by Paul Muyskens

College athletes whose spring seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic will not have this year count against them as a season played. On Monday, the NCAA voted to grant a waiver to allow additional eligibility for spring sport athletes whose seasons were impacted by COVID-19.

The vote followed a similar decision made by the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) on March 19 to allow any spring athlete to have their season of competition restored provided they had not quit or been cut from their teams prior to the season being postponed by the CCCAA on March 12.

The spring sports affected by this at Delta College include softball, baseball, beach volleyball, swimming, dive, track and field, and men’s golf.

While the decisions give athletes a second chance, it’s not a realistic option for many.

“My heart was absolutely shattered,” said sophomore softball player Ashley Laughlin. “It hit home for me in a different way, the fact that I played my last game without knowing the fact that I might never play softball again.”

Laughlin is one of many sophomores at Delta College who, despite getting a year back for athletic eligibility, will have a tough choice to make about whether coming back for another year makes sense.

“I worked so hard these past semesters and took extra units every semester to get my AA in two years. It would be fun to play softball again, but it’s not a beneficial choice for me,” she said.

Another season on Delta’s softball team would require her to pay and take extra classes — not just play again.

It remains to be seen how four-year colleges address those athletes under scholarship and how they will handle the extra year of eligibility. However, any move on the part of four-year institutions will not help those at Delta and other junior colleges who may have to pay out of pocket to be able to stay at the school for an additional year.

“I think for most athletes it can be tough because they will have to choose whether they want to pay for more classes,” said baseball player Jacob Standridge. “It was terrible knowing that this was how my final season at Delta ended. We didn’t know that our last game was our last game. We did not get to say ‘thank you’ to all the coaches and the guys for a great season.”

Also having her playing career at Delta College come to an early end is beach volleyball player Stephanie Fopiano as she is moving on to a four-year school.

“Although I’m very happy this isn’t the complete end of my beach career, I am sad that’s the end of my career at Delta,” said Fopiano.“I think it’s great they gave people back their eligibility, but for me, it’s just not realistic to come back to Delta and use it. It was such a teaser because we got our season started and I was so excited to see how this year was going to go. Most spring sports were around the midway point of the season before the remaining portion was canceled.