The College World Series, along with all other spring collegiate sporting events, were cancelled by the NCAA in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo Courtesy: NCAA)

Ohio Athletes Grateful for Extra Year of Eligibility

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MENTOR, Ohio – Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA is granting an extra year of eligibility to all spring collegiate athletes.

This moves comes after the NCAA suspended all collegiate athletics for the spring of 2020. Even though their seasons were not completed, the NCAA said they would not grant another year for athletes in winter sports.

Cuyahoga Community College freshman Sam Melnyk said an extra year is very beneficial.

“I got my redshirt year out of the way, which doesn’t count, but at the same time I’m taking it as a learning experience. I’m a freshman learning at the college level. With this season, I can take that in my mind, play it over and over again, and focus on what I did and didn’t do well,” Melnyk said

Garfield Park in Mentor, Ohio, where Schwarzwalder and Melnyk go for a game of catch once a week. Photo Courtesy: City of Mentor

Melnyk, like so many other athletes, is trying to reconstruct his workout and practice routines. With no access to organized practices, gyms or his campus, he’s resorted to mostly homemade workouts such as hitting off a tee, weightless strength workouts and trying to stay on a consistent, healthy diet. He also occasionally plays catch at a local park with former teammate Ryan Schwarzwalder, who also plays collegiate baseball for Division III Mount Union

“If you’re self-driven, you’ll find a way to get it done,” Melnyk said. “There’s no excuse to not be getting better right now.”

A move like this does have some logistical hurdles, including roster size limitations, the number of scholarships that will be available and how institutions will be affected financially.  The NCAA has already announced a massive slashing of revenue to all of its member schools due to the loss of finances from cancelled spring sports, particularity the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The cancellation of these championships caused an outcry from players and coaches, especially seniors whose careers suddenly ended.

Schwarzwalder said the move was unfortunate, but necessary.

“It was just too risky,” he said. “I want to play as much as anybody, but you can’t put that many people in danger.”

College athletics are just a fraction of the events that have been halted by the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S., the NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB have suspended or postponed their seasons indefinitely. The U.S. has the most confirmed cases in the world, and it is not known yet if or how the pandemic could affect college sports in the fall.

“I’m ready to get back to it, but I don’t want it to be an unsafe environment either,” Melnyk said.