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Will Oklahoma State provide all spring sport athletes an extra year?

OSU women’s tennis coach Chris Young may have provided the answer.

Phillip Slavin

Like every Oklahoma State fan — and every sports fan for that matter — The cancellation of the spring collegiate sports season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic devastated me. While it was then, and still is, the right decision, it brought a way-too early end to some incredibly promising seasons.

  • OSU baseball was finding its stride and a weeks away from finally opening the beautiful new O’Brate Stadium.
  • OSU softball was 19-5 — with some REALLY nice wins — and earning some much deserved top-10 rankings.
  • OSU women’s tennis was 11-1 and gearing up to host the 2020 NCAA Tennis Tournament in Stillwater. Coach Chris Young and OSU had some BIG plans for it (more info on the pod).
  • The OSU men’s and women’s golf were hitting the home stretches of their seasons. They had a few more tournaments to go including the Big 12 Championships, with the men’s tournament close to home in Tulsa.
  • The OSU men’s and women’s track and field teams had their entire outdoor season canceled, and senior Aaliyah Birmingham didn’t get a chance to compete in the 60 meters at the indoor NCAA Championships.

While the 2020 seasons are now lost to the history of “what could have been,” the careers of the seniors who took part of them are not yet over.

On March 30, the NCAA announced all spring sport athletes — not just seniors whose careers would have ended due to the cancellation of the season — would gain an extra year of eligibility. They made the right call for the athletes, but making it happen won’t be easy with roster management, scholarship management and cost.

However, the one caveat, was the NCAA left it up to schools to decide whether or not to grant seniors the same financial aid for the next academic year they received this past season.

So far some schools — namely Wisconsin and some Ivy League schools — have already chosen NOT to grant seniors another year at their institutions.

Which leads us to the question; “What will Oklahoma State — and more importantly — athletic director Mike Holder decide to do?”

Young may have provided the answer to that question in his recent appearance on CRFF The Podcast.

“(Mike Holder and I) had several discussions today as a matter of fact, about that,” Young said. “Every kid is going to have the opportunity to get those additional seasons, and that’s not something that every university athletic department across the country has made that decision.”

Now if you’ll let me assume for a moment, while Young is obviously talking about women’s tennis specifically, it’s fair to make the leap OSU will offer the same opportunity to every spring sport athlete: baseball, softball, men’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s track and field.

If so, that’s big for every spring team.

It means potentially another year of Carson McCusker, Cade Cabbiness, C.J. Varela, and Alix Garcia for a young OSU baseball team whose best young talent will only be better next season.

It means the current freshmen and sophomore players on the women’s tennis team could actually compete in an NCAA tournament in Stillwater if they can land the 2023 hosting gig.

It means softball players Carrie Eberle and Alysen Febrey won’t have transferred to OSU for nothing, and can finish their careers off the way they intended; by helping lead the Cowgirls back to the Women’s College World Series.

Coach Young wanted to make sure to give full credit to Holder.

“That’s one of the great advantages of having a leader like Mike Holder who was a student athlete and who was also a coach,” Young said. “That he understands the student athlete’s perspective. He understands the value of those four years that you get to be a student athlete and how they impact your lives. That they are such a precious commodity, those four seasons of eligibility.”

While an official announcement from OSU still needs to be made, Holder and the university appear to be doing what all NCAA athletic programs say they’re here to do — put student athletes first.