AMES — Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard was adamant about giving spring student-athletes another year of eligibility after the 2020 season was cut short due to the coronavirus.
After the NCAA granted those athletes an extra year of eligibility, it was a simple decision for Pollard even if it does cost Iowa State an additional $675,000 in scholarship money if all 27 spring seniors return next season.
“I thought back to my days as a student-athlete — and I’ve told this story to our student-athletes — I was a Division III athlete (in cross country and track and field at Wisconsin-Oshkosh) and I was hurt my freshman year,” Pollard said. “When I was senior, I was so focused on getting my first job and getting money and moving and being a professional that I left to go work with another year of eligibility left.”
He doesn’t regret much. After all, he’s an athletics director at a Power 5 school. But he does regret not using that final year.
“If there was one thing I wish I could do over, it’s suiting up one more time as a student-athlete and competing with my teammates,” Pollard said. “All the money in the world can’t buy that opportunity for me. I have that perspective as a 55-year-old that I didn’t have as 22-year-old.
“I hope they don’t throw away what they won’t be able to get back. That’s why I fought for it and I didn’t want them to think 30 years from now, ‘Gosh, I wish I could’ve.’”
That’s why Pollard will do everything in his power to allow all 27 ISU senior student-athletes to come back if they choose to. Meanwhile other schools, like Wisconsin, aren’t allowing seniors to return.
Seniors that choose to return will not count toward that team’s scholarship limit.
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“If the limit in track is 12 and we have six kids on scholarship that were seniors, then those seniors wouldn’t count toward the 12 next season if they chose to come back,” Pollard said. “That’s where the cost comes in. We have to work with those seniors to figure out which ones want to try and come back. It’s different for all of them.
“Some of them have graduated, so are they going to get a master’s (degree) now? Others had already accepted jobs and now they want to know if they should not accept the job. It’ll be 27 individual discussions and I hope all 27 choose to do it.”
Iowa State’s student-athletes have already begun making their decisions.
Edwin Kurgat, the individual NCAA men’s champion in cross country this past season and a two-time Iowa State Male Student Athlete of the year, has elected to return for the 2021 outdoor track and field season, according to a tweet from assistant track and field coach Jeremy Sudbury. He won’t be able to compete in cross country or indoor track.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>And he’s back for 2021 outdoors! <a href=”https://twitter.com/eedwinkurgat?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@eedwinkurgat</a> <a href=”https://t.co/urKQm7qhvV”>https://t.co/urKQm7qhvV</a></p>— Jeremy Sudbury (@JeremySudbury) <a href=”https://twitter.com/JeremySudbury/status/1248673834238201857?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>April 10, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8”></script>
Men’s golfer Tripp Kinney is also returning for his senior season.
Kinney was an All-American in 2019 and is one of the best golfers in Iowa State history.
“In this difficult time for everyone around the world, I’m very thankful for the Iowa State Athletic Department,” Kinney said in a statement released by Iowa State. “There is a special culture here at Iowa State, and I’m looking forward to coming back next year to create more special memories and grow as a person.”
Kinney’s teammate, Sam Vincent, will also return and, on the women’s golf side, Amelia Grohn has also elected to return.
Women’s tennis star Maty Cancini, who has the fifth most wins in Iowa State history, will continue to be a part of the team next season.
“Another year, another opportunity to give back to the place that has given me everything,” Cancini said in a statement released by Iowa State. “I am extremely excited and grateful to have the opportunity to return for my senior season.
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“This University is a special place and I truly believe that we are set up to do something special next season.”