Due to the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ending collegiate spring sports, the NCAA announced on Monday that student athletes who participated in spring sports, such as baseball and softball, will be given an extra year of eligibility to play.
The ruling would apply to all players in spring sports, but the ruling may be most beneficial to seniors who now have another chance to finish their collegiate careers on the field. Several senior athletes plan on using this ruling to play another season at Cal State Fullerton.
Baseball infielder Isaiah Garcia is one senior who plans to play another season with the Titans.
“I love it here, I want to be here,” Garcia said. “I’m happy that I get another opportunity to play another year of baseball.”
When the season ended, Garcia had the second most at-bats on the team and was tied for second with 12 hits. In his first season at CSUF after transferring from a junior college, he led the Titans with 39 RBIs and was second on the team with a .323 batting average.
CSUF softball players catcher Julia Valenzuela and pitcher Sophie Frost, also said they plan to return for another year, as the senior season where the Titans were predicted to win their fifth consecutive Big West title was also cut short.
“We had our season taken away so abruptly,” Valenzuela said. “The seniors were hit especially hard because I don’t think any of us were ready to be done yet.”
Valenzuela came into her senior season after being named to the all-Big West Second Team two years in a row. Now, the catcher has another opportunity to add to her resume.
Before the coronavirus pandemic canceled the season, Frost was planning on traveling overseas to play softball and then had a potential job with the Los Angeles Angels lined up. However, she now plans putting that on hold to play another year at CSUF.
“Softball has been my first love and if I get one more year of that, I’m definitely going to take advantage,” Frost said.
Heading into the year, Frost was coming off of two consecutive seasons where she was named to the all-Big West Second Team. In the abbreviated season, Frost led the team with 17 appearances, 11 starts and 55 strikeouts. In what turned out to be the final week of the season, she was named the Big West pitcher of the week.
However, with the NCAA ruling, there are still certain things unclear. The NCAA has decided to let the institutions decide whether athletes who will play an extra year will still receive the same scholarship money or give returning athletes smaller scholarships. While some athletes are concerned about their scholarship status, Frost plans on coming back regardless of what happens.
“If this is going to be my last year of softball, then I want to take advantage of it no matter if I’m getting that scholarship or not,” Frost said.
One issue with the amount of scholarships available for players next season will be the unusually large size of teams. With the combination of incoming freshmen and the return of seniors, the softball team could have around 40 players, Valenzuela said.
There is also the issue of academic requirements for seniors coming back for an extra season. Under usual circumstances, an athlete at CSUF has to take 12 units a semester in order to be eligible to play that season. However, since seniors will graduate with a degree this spring, they may have to be eligible under different circumstances.
One possibility is that seniors either participate in graduate school or take a minor over the next academic year in order to be eligible.
Despite the lack of clarity in some areas, several Titans athletes are just happy to get a chance to end their collegiate careers on their terms.
“I’m meant to be here,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else so that made that decision easy.”