TOUGH DECISIONS: Student-Athletes Get Additional Year of Eligibility At Montclair State
As Montclair State University grants student-athletes another chance to play, they face their biggest dilemma yet.
By: Aeneas Bethea & Tyrell Manuel-Weekes
Montclair State University Senior student-athletes Devin Cooper, Maeve Carney and Claudia Frye say they needed to bounce back after their 2020 season abruptly ended due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. With their future up in the air, this allowed time for them to rethink their future and another chance at redemption.
In order to play an extra year, the “student” part of student-athlete is crucial; they must enroll in classes.
Since student-athletes are required to take at least 12 credits to be eligible for their sport, colleges just like Montclair State encourage them to take at least 15 for backup if one class doesn’t go as planned.
This left financial issues and school stress as the major obstacles deciding the fate of their career. “When you’re in the situation I’m in to do that extra year, it’s going to be financially a situation for you and your family,” said Montclair State basketball captain and senior Devin Cooper. “Thankfully for myself, I do have a very supportive family system, so we’re able to do what we want to do.”
It’s been two years since the start of the pandemic and the NCAA made a decision for student players to get another opportunity. The organization granted all three levels of collegiate sports an extra year of eligibility even if a team didn’t compete in the 2020–21 year.
Cooper, a psychology major, decided to opt in for an additional year in Spring 2021 so he wouldn’t leave any “stone unturned” for the sport he loves.
This decision enabled to expand his education further which led him to pursue a Master’s in Exercise Science and Sports Studies.
According to College Factual, there are currently 615 student-athletes attending Montclair State; 17 are in a graduate program and 96 are seniors potentially seeking to play an additional year.
On average, 15 credits at Montclair State equates to $11,112.75. The school would make an $877,907 to their already $437 million operating budget increase if all of those 2021–2022 seniors were to play the following year.
Cooper wasn’t planning for a Master’s, but luckily for him his salary could potentially be bumped up by $12,500 once he graduates.
Unlike Cooper, Montclair State women’s lacrosse midfielder and senior Maeve Carney is declining her fifth year option. She believes her education major was good enough and her time on Sprague Field has come to an end.
“School stressed me out a lot and I felt like I wanted to graduate as early as possible… just the fact that, financially, it would be a lot to take another at least 15 credits,” Carney said.
But the academic journey continues for long running teammate and fifth year senior Claudia Frye.
Frye’s story began originally as a business major that transitioned over to a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. Having to catch up on classes, Frye will be finishing up her last semester in July.
“Due to Covid, I was able to finish my classes and continue playing lacrosse at the same time,” says Frye.
Even though Carney is departing from the game, Frye suggests other student-athletes should truly consider this once in a lifetime opportunity.
“Definitely let your coach know so you can be able to plan out your classes. And make sure you want to take a certain amount in the fall to have the eligible amount in the spring to play,” says Frye.
Someone who can relate to what the student-athletes are going through is Program Assistant for Compliance and Eligibility Kelsey Withrow.
When news first struck that the NCAA was shutting down collegiate sports because of Covid, Withrow’s team didn’t break a sweat when adjusting to the issue.
“The compliance team had continued as if nothing had changed. We prepared our reports and traced our athletes as we always have,” says Withrow.
Being a former athlete herself, she knows the toll this took on the players and she’s able to empathize with the dedication they’ve shown in the midst of it.
“I know the amount of hard work, both physically and mentally it takes in order to prepare for a season,” Withrow added. “It was awful to see the athletes do the hard work necessary to prepare to only have it taken from them, especially the graduating seniors.”
Graduate transfers have become prevalent and coaches are still figuring out the recruiting process despite the drama.
The measures that the NCAA is taking now for the eligibility rule is still unclear for the class of 2023 and beyond, but the blanket waiver has been providing COVID relief for the classes affected during their enrollment of 2020–21.
About The Authors: Aeneas Bethea and Tyrell Manuel-Weekes are seniors attending Montclair State University. They’re both Television and Digital Media majors with concentrations in Sports Media and Journalism. They will graduate in Spring 2022.