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USA Ultimate Extends College Eligibility to Fifth-Year Student-Athletes

Colorado Springs, Colo. (April 17, 2020)—In light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to the cancellation or postponement of the spring college season, USA Ultimate is extending an additional season of college eligibility to academically eligible, fifth-year student-athletes who were rostered in 2020.

USA Ultimate’s college working group evaluated and considered several options before making a unanimous recommendation to the board’s competition working group. The decision was made after thorough analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each option and careful review of recent NCAA eligibility decisions.

The decision to extend eligibility to fifth-years to some extent aligns with how the NCAA approached the situation, but was adapted to account for the significant differences between NCAA varsity sports and ultimate as a club sport, including the specific timing of seasons. 

USA Ultimate considered a wide variety of options before focusing on the following three possibilities: 1) Providing no eligibility exceptions, 2) Extending an additional year of eligibility to all 2020 college players, and 3) Extending an additional year of eligibility to fifth-year players. Each option came with a unique set of circumstances, including benefits and drawbacks that were factored into the decision. For a comprehensive analysis of each option, read the full proposal and recommendation from the college working group.

By extending an additional year of eligibility to fifth-year student-athletes, USA Ultimate is providing relief for those whose final season was unexpectedly cut short while minimizing unintended, long-term consequences on the integrity of the college division. This extension also helps to stabilize team leadership and seasonal transition, limits eligibility oversight issues to a single season, addresses the emotional impact of the finality of an athlete’s collegiate career and focuses the solution on the primary issue – returning to the fifth-year players an opportunity to replace their lost, final college season. 

USA Ultimate staff will begin updating member records to reflect this extension for eligible players and create resource materials to guide them through the exception process. In the meantime, if any fifth-year players have an immediate question that impacts their 2021 academic path, please contact Tom Manewitz at tom.manewitz@hq.usaultimate.org.

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