For Mountaineers, eligibility relief could be a luxury — but the focus is on the season

Gold and Blue Nation

An unprecedented year has led the world of college athletics to make some unprecedented changes, including allowing student-athletes an extra year of eligibility regardless of how much they compete in the upcoming season.

Due to roster and scholarship constraints, the class and decisions of individual student-athletes and other variables, this ruling affects each sport differently. There is, however, one thing that has been universal among West Virginia’s coaches — they and their players are focused on this upcoming season.

“I haven’t had anybody talk about next year or anything other than this year, and what we had to do to be successful this year,” said WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins.

Specific to the men’s basketball team, Gabe Osabuohien and Taz Sherman are the only seniors on the Mountaineers’ roster. Huggins noted that despite not having spoken to either about it, he feels that it’s likely they stick around for another season. Both players, however, indicated that they were focused on the season ahead of them.

The women’s team is in a similar situation with two seniors of their own — Kysre Gondrezick and Blessing Ejiofor. To again parallel the situation on the men’s side, Gondrezick has made it clear that she hasn’t given the prospect of staying any thought.

“I’m just taking it day by day right now,” said the redshirt senior ahead of her fifth year of college basketball. “We’ll see how this season plays out. I’ve been in college for a very long time. However, if that opportunity does present itself, my education will still get paid for and I can start working on my PhD, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy getting my masters and just prepare for this season.”

The ruling affects all student-athletes — not just seniors. Back on the men’s squad, Jalen Bridges will be entering his freshman season as a player after redshirting in 2019-20, then subsequently will have another four years of eligibility. That means he could potentially be a five-year player for Huggins.

“It’s kind of weird, but the more I think about it — I don’t even know. I don’t know how to process it,” Bridges, a Fairmont Senior High alumnus, said. “It’s just a lot of time to play for my state, a lot of time to have a lot of fun in the Coli’.”

The apparent lack of upperclassmen exists all over the athletic department, like on Jon Hammond’s rifle squad. With just one senior, Sarah Osborn, Hammond says the ruling is simply on the table for their team to think about.

“It’s not really going to affect us for a couple years,” he said. “At the moment, it’s just news and it’s something on the table for our team members to think about….I don’t want to say it’s on the back burner, but it’s something that they’re aware of. We basically have to just wait and see it play out for each individual.”

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