The NCAA announced Monday that it would grant an extra year of eligibility to spring sports athletes who had their seasons suspended by the coronavirus, a key move for South Carolina and other SEC schools.
The decision will grant an extra year of eligibility to all spring-sports athletes. While the NCAA plans to increase roster limits for sports like baseball, it is leaving it up to each individual school to decide whether to grant scholarships to seniors and grad transfers returning for another season.
The ruling will not apply to winter sports like basketball.
While the NCAA is still working out other details on the ruling, here’s a look at how it might affect each of South Carolina’s spring teams.
No team could be impacted more than Mark Kingston’s program. But no sport is more complicated than baseball, which is impacted each year by players selected in the MLB Draft.
With the MLB season also suspended, there are also major questions surrounding the 2020 draft. The league is considering postponing the draft from June to July, shortening the number of rounds and also paying signing bonuses over a three-year period instead of upfront. Signing bonuses could also be reduced and capped for undrafted players. All of those moves could impact whether or not draft-eligible players decide to return to college for another season.
Though Kingston has only two seniors and two grad transfers, more than 15 draft-eligible players could be affected by the ruling, giving them the option of an extra year if they are not drafted or not selected as high as they hoped.
Senior shortstop George Callil, senior pitcher Graham Lawson and grad transfers Dallas Beaver and Bryant Bowen would all be eligible to return next season. Callil, a junior-college transfer last year, was in his final season at South Carolina while Lawson was a fifth-year senior who returned after missing the 2018 season after having Tommy John surgery.
Beaver and Bowen transferred to South Carolina this season to try and improve their draft stock. After the Gamecocks played just 16 games (12-4), both could elect to return for another season.
Juniors Andrew Eyster and Noah Campbell entered the season as strong prospects for the 2020 draft, but the season suspension and NCAA ruling could persuade them to return to repeat their junior seasons. The Gamecocks also have six junior-college transfers — Jeff Heinrich, Noah Myers, Anthony Amicangelo and pitchers Thomas Farr, Brannon Jordan and Andrew Peters — who could decide to return. Farr and Jordan, who both got off to strong starts, were considered likely draft prospects, while Peters was working his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Other draft-eligible players who would gain an extra year of eligibility include pitchers Brett Kerry, TJ Shook, Cam Tringali and John Gilreath.
The player who could be impacted most is Friday night starter Carmen Mlodzinski, who entered the season as a top-10 prospect and could be taken in the first round of the draft. But with signing bonuses possibly being paid in increments over the next two seasons — another proposal being considered — Mlodzinski, a redshirt sophomore, could decide to return for one more season to raise his stock and increase his options.
Beverly Smith’s softball team could also get a big boost from the NCAA ruling with four key seniors on the team.
Shortstop Kenzi Maguire and second baseman MacKenzie Boesel are both three-year starters who were having strong senior seasons for the 17-6 Gamecocks, while Lauren Stewart was a two-year starter in center field who was also off to a strong start.
The ruling could be particularly huge for senior pitcher and slugger Cayla Drotar, who was injured early in the year and had missed several games of her senior season. The return of those four players could give Smith another strong nucleus for the 2021 season.
This is a bittersweet development for women’s golf coach Kalen Anderson. Her Gamecocks had climbed to No. 4 in the country when the season was suspended and were expected to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
On the flip side, two of her top golfers, seniors Lois Kaye Go and Ana Pelaez, would be eligible to return. Go is one of the top golfers in school history and owns the lowest scoring average (72.63) in program history. Pelaez, a freshman All-American in 2016-17, has also had a solid career.
Men’s coach Bill McDonald could also benefit from the ruling with the potential return of seniors Jamie Wilson and Caleb Proveaux. Both golfers had two top-five finishes this year and double-digit rounds of par or better.
Seniors Mia Horvit and Silvia Chinellato helped lead Kevin Epley’s squad to the SEC Tournament Championship and the NCAA Elite Eight last season. There were looking to lead the 8-4 (4-0 in the SEC) Gamecocks to another deep postseason run when their season was cut short.
With No. 25 Megan Davies and a wealth of young talent returning, another season for Horvit and Chinellato could give Epley one of the top teams in the country again next season.
Josh Goffi has only one senior on his No. 29-ranked team, but that senior is defending NCAA Singles Champion Paul Jubb. But with a promising pro career waiting — and after a strong professional debut last summer — Jubb is unlikely to return for another season of college tennis.
The only other upperclassman is junior and two-year starter Thomas Brown, but the Gamecocks could benefit from another year for nationally ranked sophomores Daniel Rodrigues and Raphael Lambling.
TRACK & FIELD
Curtis Frye’s team was looking for another strong showing at the NCAA Championships when the outdoor season was halted. Though he has a young men’s and women’s team, the Gamecocks could get another season from some highly decorated seniors, including national champion sprinters Quincy Hall and Aliyah Abrams.
Hall was the outdoor national championship in the 400M hurdles last year, while Abrams led the 4x400m relay team to a national championship and is one of the nation’s top 400m sprinters. Both may jump at the opportunity to compete for another national title.
The Gamecocks could also get back senior shot put champion Eric Favors and distance runner and cross country star Anna Kathryn Stoddard.
The beach volleyball team, led by head coach Mortiz Moritz, has five key upperclassman who could benefit from an extra year of eligibility.
Seniors Katie Smith, one of the top players in program history, Franky Harris and Carly Schnieder, could all return, along with grad transfers Morgyn Greer and Madison Brabham, who had cracked the starting lineup during the 2020 season.