Senior women’s soccer midfielder Riley Pidgeon competing on Wilson Field, where she will return to next fall. Photo from Riley Pidgeon.

COVID took a lot away: concerts, sports, school…our dignity. But there was one unexpected byproduct of this monster: eligibility. 

Thanks COVID, but it’s the least you can do. 

Chapman and all NCAA athletes who lost out on their sports seasons in the catastrophe of a year that 2020 was, get additional athletic eligibility.

But Chapman athletes’ choices on whether to utilize this eligibility or not is not unanimous.

Senior linebacker and All-American Dillon Keefe is one of many athletes on campus that will be staying a fifth year and competing one last time. But for him, that fifth year may not be his last time. 

Keefe is looking to continue at the professional level.

Dillon Keefe, #44 for the Panthers, playing against SCIAC opponent, Occidental College. Photo from Dillon Keefe.

“To give myself the best shot at going pro, I wanted to gather more film and playing time by having another season at Chapman.”

This required him to postpone some required classes until next fall but to him, it’s worth it. 

Many other athletes were forced to do the same if they wanted to play.

NCAA Division III rules state that athletes do not need to be enrolled as a full-time student to compete in their sports season. However, they must be part-time, taking classes towards their degree requirements, or verified classes that are helping the student-athlete meet some sort of professional goal. 

Senior women’s soccer player Riley Pidgeon took her fall semester off from school to conserve her required credits to play next fall, but this decision to play did not come without serious financial decisions.

After all, $60,000 a year isn’t exactly pocket change.

Despite this, she couldn’t walk away. 

“I have played this sport since I could walk, and I couldn’t accept that I had my last practice, game, bus ride, locker room celebration, without even knowing it,” said Pidgeon. 

Doug Aiken, Chapman University’s Associate Director of Athletics. Photo from Doug Aiken.

Though there are many like Keefe and Pidgeon, Doug Aiken, Chapman’s Associate Director of Athletics, says athletes’ eligibility decisions on campus are “very split” from what he can see. 

“It’s very sport specific,” said Aiken.

He noted that sports like golf, swim, and volleyball have little to no seniors using their eligibility, while sports like football, baseball, and soccer have several seniors returning. 

The baseball team in particular has many returning, all of whom are yearning to go back to the national championship, which they won in 2019. 

But this is not the case for everyone. 

Jordan Fuelling, a senior on the volleyball team, is foregoing her eligibility – but not easily. 

Jordan Fuelling, senior volleyball player, set to graduate this spring. Photo from Chapman Athletics website.

“I struggled with the decision because volleyball was my identity,” said Fuelling. 

“Pushing off my undergraduate degree to play another season did not feel like it would suit my career path long term,” she said.

To each their own. But it seems like no matter what decision these athletes make, there is a sacrifice to be made along with it. 




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Mia Fowler is a senior studying business and journalism. When she's not in the classroom, you can find her on the soccer field where she is finishing up her last season with The Panthers.