Barnhart says still many questions surrounding upcoming NCAA eligibility decision

LEXINGTON, Ky, (WKYT) - The NCAA on Monday will vote whether to grant an extra year of eligibility to winter and spring athletes who had their seasons cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, but UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart thinks there are still many questions to be answered about the issue.

"It's a complicated issue on a lot of fronts," Barnhart said on Friday.

Barnhart used baseball as an example, where coaches are allowed just 11.7 scholarships each year. He says recruits coming out of high school have already made decisions based upon roster openings at the college level. If the NCAA votes to allow seniors an additional year, that will have a direct effect on those recruits and the players who have decisions to make about returning.

Barnhart said the baseball draft will also impact college rosters.

"If Major League Baseball doesn't have a draft, or if they have an abbreviated draft that would limit the access to the number of young people out of our program or high schools to those teams, that will impact roster numbers. It impacts scholarship commitments."

"You would have to have a lot of language," Barnhart says of the NCAA's upcoming ruling. "Is it an extension of the clock, or every class? Is it just seniors? A lot of those things would be affected."

"You've got some seniors who disappointingly didn't get a chance to participate in their senior season. I can think of several in our spring sports. Some have already got job offers to go into the real world. Some just don't have the ability to come back and continue to pay some of those dollars to participate. Even though they're on scholarship, they're not fully scholarshipped," he added.

"They would have to use some of their own money to come back and participate again. That might not be something they can do or want to do."

Kentucky softball player Alex Martens is one of those seniors and was recently selected as the third-best player in America. Martens most likely will have a chance to play pro softball.

"We have plans set up. We do that very early," Martens said, when asked about coming back for an extra season.

"I had already been accepted into grad school. This was in the fall."

Martens says she and other players like her don't have enough information to make decisions regarding a return to school next fall.

"Technically, my grad school doesn't start until June. If we're still quarantined in June, I'm not going to grad school. There are a lot of things up in the air right now."

Martens says UK fans need to realize a decision to return for an additional year isn't an easy one for the athletes.

"It's the hardest when fans will say things on social media, like, 'stop being sad. You're coming back. You have another year.'

"I'm like, 'Hold up. You don't know what's really going on behind the scenes in our lives. We're adults or trying to become adults. We don't have sports forever."

"We're trying to figure out that maneuver, what's the next step, get all the information," Martens said. "We're trying to make the best decision for ourselves for the future and the current state of our country."