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The Sun’s Arizin: Revisiting The COVID Rules

How exactly do the COVID exemption rules work, and what does it mean for the transfer portal?

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Happy Monday Nova Nation! Last week a question was posed to me that had me going down a research rabbit hole. It was a fairly simple question, but the ramifications could be big for Villanova’s off-season: If nobody leaves, how can Villanova take on a transfer?

We all know that Gillespie, Samuels, and Cosby-Roundtree have completed their eligibility. We also know that their roster spots will be replaced by the three incoming freshmen in Whitmore, Armstrong, and Hausen. That puts Villanova back at 13 scholarship players, the maximum allowed.

And yet, Villanova has been actively recruiting in among guards in the transfer portal. To me, this means there are one of three possibilities:

  1. The coaching staff is just covering their bases in case an unexpected change were to occur. I think this is a good idea, but I don’t think it’s all they’re doing.
  2. The staff know someone is on their way out, and are looking to replace them. Given who they’re talking to, that would likely be a guard on the way out. I’ve said it before, I don’t think anyone’s on the way out.
  3. The COVID exemption rules would allow them to take on another player despite having 13 scholarships.

I think #3 is likely the answer, and the research myself and the crack staff we have at VUHoops looks to back that up.

First, let’s talk about the finer print of these exemptions. The exemption is really in two parts in terms of how it works for players that were on D1 college basketball rosters in the 2020-21 season:

  • Part 1: The 2020-21 season does not count against any player’s eligibility, regardless of if they played or not.
  • Part 2: Players who were rostered during the 2020-21 season will have six years to use their four seasons of eligibility instead of the usual five.

That takes care of the individual players, but it does put coaches and rosters in a predicament. How can coaches recruit if they don’t know how many “Super Seniors” will be returning? To that end, there was an exception made for players returning for a fifth season last year. Their scholarships would not count against their team’s total scholarship count unless the player was transferring into the school. So technically, Villanova could have had three more players on scholarship last year if they chose to.

What does that mean for this year? It’s not quite clear yet. A lot of the research we pulled together only states that the scholarship count exemption has been made for the 2021-22 season. However it makes sense that it would count towards all seasons in which the coaching staff could have super seniors. For Villanova’s 2022-23 season, that would mean Caleb Daniels and Brandon Slater’s scholarships don’t count toward the 13 allowed scholarships on the roster. Therefore, Villanova could end up with 14 or even 15 scholarship players if they brought in a transfer or two.

So what will Villanova do? It’s still unclear. The Wildcats really could just be doing their due diligence in the transfer portal, and end up moving forward with the full roster they already have. They also could bring in a point guard as it’s the least experienced position on the team. Whichever way they go, we’ll likely find out in the next few weeks. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and watch Kyle Lowry, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Eric Paschall in the NBA Playoffs.

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