College Eligibility


JT Bellina, Reporter

Last week the Georgia Bulldogs trampled over Texas Christian University to win the College Football National Championship. Leading the Bulldogs was Stetson Bennett, a once walk-on, 25- year-old quarterback who threw for 300+ yards. While Bennett’s back-to-back championships have brought him plenty of praise, recent attention has been given to his abnormally long six-year college football career. With the NCAA changing many of their eligibility rules to accommodate the 2020-2021 Covid-affected seasons, this article will be looking at the extended eligibility of college athletes, as well as other ways athletes can play college sports for an extended amount of time. 

All NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA athletes automatically gained an extra year of eligibility if their seasons were in some way affected by Covid. Fall and winter sports all gained one year, while some springtime athletes gained two full years of additional eligibility. College athletes used to get five years to compete in 4 seasons, and with changes because of Covid, they now get six years to compete in four seasons. 

There is a somewhat simple explanation for Stetson Bennett being able to play until the age of 25. Bennett started his career as a walk-on for the Georgia Bulldogs, where he ended up being red-shirted. So, with Bennett’s additional year as well as his freshman year not counting as a year of eligibility, he was allowed to be a college athlete for six years. 

While many athletes have received extra years of eligibility, there is another way that student-athletes can participate for an extended amount of time in college sports. Olivia Miles, the star point guard for the Notre Dame Women’s Basketball team, is currently playing in her third college season as a sophomore. Miles, among few in the NCAA, graduated high school early and began playing with the Irish during what would have been her senior year in high school. Even though she was not red-shirted, Miles will be able to play at least five seasons, more than most players with extra eligibility from Covid. The idea of an early graduate is very appealing to a college coach, as they will have more time to get the athlete settled and used to their new team. With the Fighting Irish hitting the jackpot on Olivia Miles, Head Coach Niele Ivey has already brought in another early graduate for the 2022-2023 season.