Return to Bylaw Blog

A Solution for Sami Spenner

Jason Lisk of The Big Lead on Nebraska-Omaha pentathlete Sami Spenner:

The issue? Her school, the University of Nebraska-Omaha, began the transition to Division I from Division II in 2012, after she had begun attending the school. Schools transitioning to Division I are not eligible to compete for national championships during the four years when they are considered in the transition period.

Spenner is not a good case for a waiver because she does not present any compelling mitigation that other athletes at a school transitioning to Division I would not have. If Spenner got a waiver, it would have to be a blanket waiver and the prelude to a change in the NCAA’s transition rules.

Without removing the postseason ineligibility requirement altogether, the NCAA has two options:

  • Grandfather in any individual sport athletes who were at the school prior to the announcement that the institution was transitioning to Division I; or
  • Allow individual sport athletes to compete in NCAA championships while the school remains ineligible for a team championship.

That might not sound fair to team sport athletes but the NCAA has treated individual and team sport athletes differently in many cases. For example, individual sport athletes used to have looser fundraising rules to help them receive financial assistance for their athletic careers before entering college.[1] There’s also no way to separate the individual student-athletes in a team sport from the team itself. That would require entirely rethinking the postseason ineligibility part of the Division I transition.

  1. The NCAA has since expanded this rule to all athletes.  ↩

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!