How will the NCAA handle scholarship limits after providing blanket waivers this season? Kirby Smart shares what he knows
It’s not often the NCAA gets applauded for a decision but that’s what happened after the organization decided to give all football players a free year of eligibility in 2020. Due to the fact this season was going to be unlike any other, it was a smart move for all involved.
While some fans have envisioned a scenario where the entire team returns next season, in addition to the upcoming recruiting class serving as added depth to the roster, the reality is most seniors in the SEC are not likely to return in 2021.
That’s not to say some won’t return for another season, but it’s very unlikely we see the majority of seniors — or redshirt sophomores and juniors with NFL potential for that matter — return next fall.
In fact, the NCAA still has yet to reveal how they plan to deal with this issue of players returning in regards to team’s 85-man scholarship limits.
On Tuesday evening, Kirby Smart shared what he knows when it comes to the NCAA’s plans.
“They’re not going to count seniors, so if a senior chooses to come back, it’s not going to count against your 85. It’s going to be a bonus there, as I understand it,” Smart shared during his most recent media availability.
At this point in time, however, Smart believes players should not be put in the position to make those decisions with the season still ongoing.
“I’ll be honest with you, that’s not fair to those kids. I know y‘all are going to ask questions, and that’s your job, but it’s really not fair because they haven’t finished their season and they don’t need to make that decision right now,” Smart continued. “That decision is based on family, graduation, performance, NFL evaluation.
“So, when you all are asking those kids those questions, it’s just bad. It’s just not good for them to have to answer that. They need to be focused on Vanderbilt and playing good, and when their minds go to the other, it’s not great for them. In their own free time, they can think about it all they want. But they’ve got to focus on playing Vanderbilt, playing Missouri, hopefully playing a bowl game, avoiding COVID. There’s a lot going on before they have to make that decision.”
While the majority of seniors are likely to go on to the next phase of their life, Georgia’s coach did mention that any veterans that do return could prove to be valuable and could provide an opportunity for more education for the players that make that decision.
“As far as the seniors go, they’d be able to stay. I think that’s a great thing, because they get a chance to possibly graduate,” Smart concluded. “There are so few redshirt-seniors on any team anymore. It just doesn’t happen. We’ve got Ben [Cleveland] and Prather [Hudson], but those are the only two. And the rest of the guys, it would be an opportunity to graduate from college and possibly play again.”