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Thursday, December 09, 2021
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Wisconsin Badgers' Dana Rettke (16) reacts during an NCAA Volleyball match against Purdue on Friday January 22, 2021 in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Tom Lynn/Wisconsin Athletic Communications

Breaking down the COVID-19 extra year of eligibility

With fall sports starting back up, Badger fans might be surprised to see some of their favorite athletes returning to play for an extra year. Last October, the NCAA announced that they would be granting all Division I fall and winter sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, regardless of whether they competed in the 2020-21 season.

Typically, student athletes are granted five years to play four seasons of their sport; However, due to the non-traditional 2020-21 sports season caused by COVID-19, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) extended this eligibility to six years.

The extension is two-fold, including both a season competition waiver and an eligibility extension. The season of competition waiver ensures that none of the 2020-21 fall or winter sports seasons count towards an athlete’s year of eligibility — whether the athlete competed or not. The extension of eligibility gives students the opportunity to return for an extra year. 

The waiver and eligibility extension are valid for all athletes, whether they were freshmen or had initially expected to graduate in 2021.

These new rules the NCAA set in place will impact team rosters and recruiting practices for the next few years, but what immediate impacts can Wisconsin sports fans expect to see? 

This fall, Wisconsin football and women’s volleyball will both benefit from the return of several players who were expected to graduate last May. The Badger’s defense has eight returning seniors, including three safeties, two cornerbacks, two line-backers and a defensive end. Wide receivers Kendric Pryor and Jack Dunn are the only two seniors returning to play for the Badger’s offense.

While their former teammates move on to compete in the NFL or to begin their respective careers, these athletes’ leadership and experience on the field and leadership could help the Badgers performance this season. 

Wisconsin’s number-2 ranked women's volleyball team has five returning seniors this year, including star player Dana Rettke. Rettke, a middle-blocker, is joined by accomplished setter Sydney Hilley, libero Lauren Barnes, outside hitter Grace Loberg and defensive specialist Giorgia Civita. Considering the high-level of success these girls were able to achieve on the court last year, the Badgers should be able to pull off another winning season with the return of some of the best players in the conference. 

Deciding whether or not to return for an extra season of eligibility isn’t an easy choice for student athletes to make. Factors such as financial aid, career opportunities and a student’s academic prospects all need to be considered. 

“Navigating this environment was something no one has ever really had to do before and I wanted to make sure I did the best job possible, looking at all my options and deciding what would be best for me,” Rettke said. “This was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on. That’s just kind of where my heart fell, knowing that this is it for college. Pro volleyball can wait a little bit.” 

Wisconsin athletics will continue to see the effects of eligibility extensions this year. Wisconsin fans can still root on returning players this year and Badger fans get the chance to cheer on some of their favorite athletes for an extra season. 

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