Back in 2020, the NCAA decided to give all fall and spring athletes a mulligan year due to the pandemic disrupting the sports seasons.
In many instances, including at the University of Arizona, it has led to larger, oversized rosters across the country as so-called super seniors return for a fifth year of eligibility.
We have had fan favorites here at the UA come back, including women’s basketball star Cate Reese and NFL prospect kicker Lucas Havrisik. We’ve also gained super seniors through the transfer portal, including men’s basketball point guard Justin Kier, who transferred from the University of Georgia in the fall for his fifth year of eligibility.
As easy as it is for fans to say and rationalize why everyone should come back, it was not that easy for all the players themselves.
“When I first heard about it, I wasn’t sure if I was going to take it,” Cate Reese said.
Havrisik was likewise unsure at first. But both came around to the same decision.
“At the beginning of the season, I was pretty sure I was going to. It was kind of a no-brainer just because of our fans and the community and the university,” Reese said.
She had fully made up her mind when she dislocated her shoulder in a game against Washington State on Feb. 20. She sat out for several weeks and returned to play in the NCAA tournament. After the Wildcats were eliminated in the second round, Reese announced she was having surgery.
The injury is what convinced Reese to return, she said, because she had unfinished business.
“Team goals for next year is to make it back to the NCAA tournament, and back to the Final Four,” Reese said, knowing her star teammate Sam Thomas did the same thing when she declared at the end of her fourth season in 2021 that she, too, would return for a fifth year.
“I want to continue working on my three-point shot and defense as I get ready to go pro,” Reese said, adding that wants to go to graduate school.
Havrisik said he also knew he wasn’t done and had unfinished business from a team standpoint, and personally.
“I knew I didn’t want to be done yet. The [COVID-19] season wasn’t fun because no fans and everything, so I was pretty positive I was for sure going to come back,” he said.
Havrisik, who played his final season this year, cited learning a lot from the new coaching staff, which is his third since arriving at Arizona.
“I experienced a lot with my extra year from a group of new coaches who were very experienced and some who have been in the NFL, so it was nice to learn from them,” Havrisik said. “I learned more about the weight room, recovery, schemes. Pretty much everything. I tried to soak up as much as I could with the amazing staff we had. It was a challenge adjusting to a new coaching staff for the third time, but it paid off a lot. A bunch of competition and hard work.”
Havrisik has entered the NFL draft, which will be held April 28-30 in Nevada.
In total, Arizona football has had the most players take advantage of the extra year, with 13 taking the super senior designation and another eight players who transferred into the program
The NCAA relaxed the roster sizes across sports, so it was not an issue of availability, but more so an issue of space for other players who may have been bumped on the depth charts.
Football, the biggest sport, had no reduction in the number of scholarships they could award.
Arizona baseball, fresh off a College World Series appearance in 2021, had two super seniors, and the NCAA relaxed roster totals from 35 to 40 for this season. Last season, there were no roster restrictions.
The baseball team roster is set to return to 35 for the 2023 baseball season.
Men's and women’s basketball also were given flexibility in their rosters above the usual 13.
Track and field had four total super seniors while men's and women’s golf didn’t see much of a change with a total of one super senior between the two teams.
Katie Vick, the sports information director for volleyball, softball and gymnastics, said that softball has had two super seniors, while volleyball and gymnastics have not had any.
Vick said there is currently one super senior for volleyball next season, but she is not aware of how roster sizes will be moving forward.
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