CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia will not increase the scholarship budgets for spring sports programs that have senior athletes seeking to return for an additional year next season.
A school spokesman confirmed Tuesday that any seniors who opt to return for the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA will have to have their coaches work out scholarship funding from the team’s existing budget.
It’s just one of many financial decisions the school is facing in the wake of COVID-19 cancellations.
Last week, Virginia president Jim Ryan announced a plan for the university to deal with the financial ramifications of COVID-19, though two of the measures he put in place apparently won’t impact the athletic department.
Ryan announced a salary freeze, meaning “no merit increases for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.” A spokesman said that does not apply to coaches who have annual raises and bonuses built into their contracts.
Similarly, Ryan’s senior leadership pay cuts, a 10-percent salary reduction for Virginia’s executive leadership team, does not include athletic director Carla Williams, or any athletic administrators or coaches. Williams declined to comment on Wednesday.
The one part of Ryan’s plan that will affect UVA athletics is his freeze on capital projects.
Virginia will be able to finish the current phase of work on the new football facility, which includes the construction of grass practice fields, with lighting and utilities. That portion of the project is scheduled to be completed in August. Future work on the facility, along with the rest of the university’s facilities master plan, is suspended, as fundraising has not been completed.
Spring football practice at UVA was canceled in March, along with all NCAA winter championships and spring sports, due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The NCAA announced that it would allow spring sport athletes who lost their season to have an extra year of eligibility to make up for the loss.
The NCAA said that it would relax roster limits on teams impacted, but the organization left paying for those athletes’ scholarships to the individual schools.
In all, UVA had 44 seniors on spring rosters who could be eligible to return for an additional year. Not all of them are interested in returning.
Some, like softball pitcher Riley Wilkinson, have post-graduate educational plans. Wilkinson is heading to medical school at Louisville. Others are set to enter the workforce.
Spring sports are considered equivalency programs so athletes can be given partial scholarships.
In 2019, UVA reported to the NCAA scholarship expenses of $20.3 million for 541 athletes. The full scholarship equivalency was valued at $321.22.
The NCAA ruling put athletic departments in a bind. Athletes were allowed to return but schools received no help funding that decision.
Wisconsin announced it would not be allowing senior athletes to return next season. The Ivy League said its athletes won’t receive a fifth year of eligibility.