BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) This was supposed to be the year the UVM men's lacrosse team finally got over the hump and qualified for the NCAA tournament...but Head Coach Chris Feifs' squad never got the chance.
"It was just happening so quick," Feifs said. "It was hard to actually believe what was transpiring."
Picked to win the America East conference in the preseason poll, the Cats had the rug pulled out from under them just four games in. Their season canceled in response to the Coronavirus.
"Not allowing our seniors, who had been with our staff since the day we stepped on campus, not allowing them that opportunity to compete for a championship. That was the tough part, looking at guys like Nick Washuta, Ben French, and Rob Hudson, and the list goes on," Feifs said.
Now the NCAA has had its say: those seniors can come back and use their final year of eligibility next Spring, but there's a catch.
"Really there's just the factors of cost of education and the job market and cost of living. It's not just snapping your fingers," Feifs said.
NCAA rules typically allow Vermont to spread 12.6 scholarships among its roster, but the money allocated to this year's seniors has already been promised to other players for next year. The NCAA will grant a bit of wiggle room for 2021, but UVM Athletic Director Jeff Schulman has said the department doesn't have room in the budget to pay for extra scholarships. Essentially seniors who want to return would have to pay their own way.
"We're still working through all that and we don't have anyone yet that's firmly been able to say that they're definitely able to do it."
The bulk of recruiting for the future is done at Summer tournaments and showcases which are very much up in the air this year. Current underclassmen also will have the chance to use the extra year, and those two factors will have scholarship ramifications for years to come.
"We're definitely gonna need to take some smaller classes so that our roster is just not bloated and not giving guys an opportunity to actually fight for playing time," Feifs said.
But regardless of who ends up taking the field, Feifs is confident his team's culture will allow the Cats to be back in a similar position next Spring...and hopefully then they can get over the hump.
"Nothing great ever comes easy, and we're just gonna continue to use it as motivation to get back there and hopefully get a championship in '21."