Coronavirus Postpones JC Sports, Putting Student-Athlete Futures in Doubt

Thousands of San Diego collegiate athletes awaiting word on transfer and eligibility status

On Friday the NCAA announced it was working on a plan to give student-athletes from spring sports who had their seasons canceled by the coronavirus pandemic another year of eligibility. Details are still being worked out and should be revealed next week.

But there's another group of student-athletes who are still in limbo wondering how and when they can continue their athletic careers, and their educations.

The California Community College Athletic Association also elected to postpone all spring sporting events due to COVID-19, but it's possible they could be canceled altogether. The trickle-down effect will have a dramatic impact on San Diego Community Colleges.

"A lot of the concern outside the safety of our student-athletes and our community is our student athletic eligibility," said John Woods, Commissioner of the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference.

The PCAC is comprised of nine community colleges, including Cuyamaca, Grossmont, Imperial Valley, MiraCosta, Miramar, Palomar, San Diego City, San Diego Mesa and Southwestern.

"The vast majority of our student-athletes transfer after two years of competition," said Woods. "If we determine as an organization that we're suspending the entire year, which could come, we want to determine how that's going to affect our student-athletes when they transfer."

Typically a junior college athlete spends two years on J.C. teams before transferring to a 4-year NCAA or NAIA school, giving them three years of eligibility left (two years of competition plus one redshirt season).

"What we don't want to do as an organization is sacrifice a year of competition with a student-athlete," said Woods. "Many of them transfer with full scholarships and in many cases that's the only way they're going to be able to become educated at the next level is with that scholarship assistance. So those years are important to them, and to us."

Complicating the issue is the start times of spring sports.

For example, many baseball and softball teams have played nearly half their season but badminton programs are just getting underway. Should they all be weighed the same way when it comes to eligibility issues?

That is just one of the myriad of issues to work through. There is expected to be a board conference call on Tuesday to discuss how to classify the eligibility of student-athletes from spring sports. Once the CCCAA makes its determination it still has to work with the NCAA to see if they will accept the recommendation.

By the way, John Woods has been involved as a coach, athletics director, and commissioner with San Diego County Community Colleges for 49 years. Much like the rest of us, he's never seen anything like this.

"It's really complicated. I've been at this a long time. This is one of the most tenuous and difficult situations I've been involved in."

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