Bratton, Robertson react to NCAA granting extra year to spring athletes

Jason Elmquist/Stillwater News Press Oklahoma State coach Alan Bratton looks down the fairway from the No. 1 tee box at the 2019 NCAA Division I Golf Championships at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Oklahoma State spring athletes received a nod of good news Monday evening from the NCAA.

It was also a positive announcement for a handful of OSU coaches, although it arguably means more work for them during the months when they would normally be competing during the heart of the season and the postseason.

The Division I Council voted to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring-sport athletes whose 2020 seasons were cut quite short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Winter athletes – many of whom weren’t allowed to finish their seasons when everything ended during championship time – weren’t granted the same rights. The council declined to extend their eligibility, despite no national champion being crowned in men’s and women’s basketball, or wrestling.

The news was well received by OSU men’s golf coach Alan Bratton.

“It should be a really good thing,” Bratton said. “It’s a privilege to get to play college athletics, and to have lots of athletes who had just got started – we had actually played half of our season – but hadn’t got to the meat of the season. It’s great, certainly in theory it’s a no-brainer to do. In execution, you still have a lot of things that still have to be figured out. Overall, I think it’s a really good thing and we’ll sort through on how to make it work.”

OSU women’s golf coach Greg Robertson was also happy about the NCAA decision, even though he isn’t quite sure how it immediately affects his young squad.

“We are certainly excited about the coming season with such a young group,” Robertson said. “Nine of our 11 players were freshmen and sophomores. Talented, young group that are going to be together for the next couple of years. We are certainly excited for that and to see how they grow and progress. There is no reason they can’t be as competitive as anybody with who we have coming back. I think it was a good decision by the NCAA and by the conferences to allow this extra year.

“We only have one junior and one senior on the team. We got to sit down and talk to them and find out what they want to do and what’s best for everybody. We will go down that road the next week or so. Really, it remains to be seen how it will affect the younger players and whether or not they take that extra year in the future as freshmen and sophomores. There will be a lot to think about and get through with this ruling, but it was the right decision to let these athletes have their full four years of competitiveness in the spring and get what they were promised when they got to college.”

Like many coaches, Bratton also has mixed feelings about the extra year of eligibility. Allowing players an extra year to replace a shortened one that never finished seemed obvious to the coach who guided the Cowboys to the 2018 NCAA Championship on their home course at Karsten Creek Golf Club.

However, there are still plenty of details to iron out for coaches and athletic directors, including the logistical and financial pieces of the puzzle. That’s now the tricky part of this decision.

It also extends to athletes and their families, especially for seniors who were planning on graduating this spring.

“I hope the NCAA will come back with some clarification on some things and some of the unattended things they might not have thought of,” Bratton said. “One big thing with people coming back is what if that senior has already graduated? In the spring sports, the bulk of them are equivalency sports, so are they going to make that kid take a full class load? That’s how the rules read right now. … If you have to take a full class load, that gets expensive, especially a full class load of classes they don’t need. They could work on a graduate degree, but not everybody is interested in that.”

For Bratton, he just has just one senior to talk to about returning for one last ride. Ferdinand Müller, of Renningen, Germany, was the lone senior on the Cowboys’ squad this spring.

Müller had the second-lowest scoring average on the team this spring behind junior Austin Eckroat. Playing as an individual, Müller won the Southern Plains Intercollegiate this year.

He now faces the decision whether or not to return to OSU next year.

“There are still some things up in the air, but I think he’d like to come back if we can make that work,” Bratton said. “… We’ve got a chance to get Ferdi back, who’s one of our most improved players and was an impact player for us this year. I hope it works out to to where he does take advantage of an additional year and gets to be a part of our program for another year, because he’s a real positive for us.”

Robertson shared a similar sentiment about his lone senior – Michelle Forsland. The Kolbotn, Norway, native has an opportunity at one more season with the Cowgirls.

Yet, there are many details and decisions to iron out during the upcoming weeks and possibly months.

“Those are the details that I don’t know,” Robertson said. “My guess is the rules will probably stay the same that they are going to probably have a full load of classes. If they already graduated, I am assuming that grad school can be an option or maybe a second degree. If they are going for that second degree, they have to meet those progress requirements. Again, just some things you got to work through.

“It is a good rule and going to help out a lot of people, but it is probably not as easy as everyone thinks it is, because it will certainly affect recruiting down the road, too, especially with teams that have already got commitments from the 2021 class. We don’t have any commitments, because we are so young. As we start looking into the ’22 class, we don’t know how many players who are going to be sophomores again next year and take that fifth year or how many will leave after four when they graduate.

“There is a lot to process and think about. It is all going to play out over time. We will just have to be patient in the process and get through it like everyone else.”

News Press assistant news editor Jordan Bishop contributed to this story.

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