Division III athletes face decisions with extra year of eligibility


March is usually the beginning of the season for St. Norbert baseball. Little did they know, it would be the end in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ended their season early.

“It was extremely difficult, obviously. You spend five, six weeks of practice to prepare for a full season. Then for these guys specifically, you’re talking twenty years of hard work,” said head coach Mike Wallerich.

De Pere native Carson Jacques started, and Bay Port grad Bryce Braspennickx closed what would be the final game of their senior year, a 5-2 win over Loras College.

“To have those guys that I’ve been working so hard with for so long now. To have them there, and just be there for each other was really important,” said senior pitcher Bryce Braspennickx.

“It was definitely really hard to take, because you put in all this hard work during the offseason and these three years leading up to your final goodbye, not goodbye, but rodeo I guess to speak,” said senior pitcher Carson Jacques.

The NCAA later granted seniors an extra year of eligibility after their final seasons were cancelled. For athletes on scholarship that decision may be easier than for non-scholarship players at the Division III level.

The choice of whether or to continue to pay and play, or move on to the next step in life.

“My plan is to graduate and maybe starting a masters program to come back and use my year,” said Jacques

“If there’s any chance that I can come back, and it means I don’t graduate, but maybe enables me to work and be in school, and compete again. I’m probably going to plan on doing that,” said Braspennickx.

Playing for the love of the game is a big thing for any athlete competing in Division III. Also, the extra year of eligibility provides a chance to finish what they started.

“This is probably one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on. It was a really good family mentality that we had. I would just feel wrong to not go and compete with this group of guys,” said Jacques.

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